Burn for Burn

Burn for Burn (Book 1) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY…
THEY GET EVEN.

Lillia has never had any problems dealing with boys who like her. Not until this summer, when one went too far. No way will she let the same thing happen to her little sister.

Kat is tired of the rumours, the insults, the cruel jokes. It all goes back to one person– her ex-best friend– and she’s ready to make her pay.

Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she’s not the same girl anymore. And she’s ready to prove it to him.

Three very different girls who want the same thing: sweet, sweet revenge. And they won’t stop until they each had a taste. (Goodreads)

The Cover:

This cover is to die for gorgeous. Yes, these girls are too incredibly beautiful to all live in one tiny town and be teamed up together (because it just isn’t fair to the rest of us), but I still love it.

The Authors:

I need to get this out of the way immediately. HOLY SHIZZ, IT’S JENNY HAN AND SIOBHAN VIVIAN!  I love them both, especially Jenny’s Summer books, and I’m so jealous that not only are they best friends but now writing partners. This is a fabulous pairing.

OK, so we should talk about the book now.

The Story:

Burn for Burn focuses on three girls—who aren’t friends—living in a tiny place called Jar Island.  In order to truly understand the basic idea of the book, you need to know where each girl is coming from.

Mary is returning to the island after a few years away. She’s a sweet and timid girl who was once the victim of heartless bullying (is there any other kind?), mostly at the hand of one jerkwad extraordinaire, Reeve, the popular junior high boy who grew up to be that popular high school boy with zero depth and mega tool tendencies.

Lillia is that beautiful, popular girl who is just sort of over it.  Her best friend, Rennie is quite the nasty Queen Bee, bent on snagging Reeve (she can have him. For reals), continuing her evil reign as Cheer Captain, and devoting herself to maintaining her status as a pretty, popular, nasty little bish.  Lillia’s never been quite as nasty as Rennie, but in the past she’s been apathetic about it, eating up the attention she receives as one of the in crowd.  But now it’s like a light switch has flipped and part of her wants to fight it.  She’s tired of the popular kids, and angry at Rennie for what transpired one night at a wild college party.  Worse, it led to a possible hook-up between her old buddy Alex (also of the In Crowd) and her sweet little freshman sister. You don’t mess with a girl’s sister.

Then there’s Kat. God, I love her.  Kat was once best friends withe Lillia and Rennie.  Now she’s the resident bad girl from the wrong side of town.  Ousted from the inner circle of Rennie and the gang at the beginning of high school and instantly marked as trash, Kat has no problem being a bitch.  She had this secretive summer friendship with Alex that turned into a little bit of a fling until it seemed that Lillia’s little sister, Nadia stepped in, apparently primed to follow in her sister’s perfectly popular footsteps.  And since Rennie continues to make Kat’s school life miserable, Kat decides to finally get back at her and Alex and the whole crew for the years they’ve spent tormenting her.

Burn for Burn is a book about revenge. Mary, Lillia and Kat come together after a chance encounter in the ladies room (cuz it’s where we hang) and craft a meticulously laid out plan to basically destroy Reeve, Rennie and Alex.  No one can know they’re friends or they might suspect.  This is most important for Lillia who’s in the lion’s den every day and has to spend time actually pretending to like these people.  She definitely has the hardest job being that Rennie is constantly in her face being an idiot, Reeve continues his reign as Super Douche and Alex continues trying to hide this one-night stand he apparently had with Lillia’s baby sis. And oh, the evil plans come together beautifully. I mean, I cringed, but I also laughed. In fact, I almost felt bad for the first victim. Almost.  And since it goes without a hitch, this only emboldens the girls.

Throughout the book we get glimpses into the past of each girl; we find out what is truly driving them and how they came to be exactly where they are. There are details about Kat’s early friendship with Lillia and Rennie, Mary’s “friendship” with Reeve, and what ultimately drove her to the breaking point, and also the sad truth about what happened to Lillia the night she left her sister at Alex’s house to go to a party with Rennie. It’s all there in painfully vivid detail.

Fair warning, though there are some funny moments in this book, there is darkness.  Issues like bullying, date rape, suicide are all there. While they aren’t in any way glorified, they are certainly not tame subjects.  I think the authors handled these issues with honesty, but they may not be for the faint of heart or those looking for a cute, girly read.  And being the first in a series, this book takes an awfully strange twist at the end–one I didn’t see coming, even though it was hinted at ever so delicately early on.  You will not see a final resolution to the story, but you’ll meet some very interesting characters along the way.

The writing here is, of course, absolutely flawless. The dialogue is spot on as in all of Han’s and Vivian’s novels, but this is a departure for both of them.  Think of it as being similar to their other writings (a little edgier like Vivian) but with a bit of supernatural thrown in. I’m not talking wolves or vampires or anything, but there is something that isn’t completely normal going on. It’s like a weird combo of Heathers and Mean Girls  with some magic. Sort of.  And not the cute kind of magic. The Stephen King’s Carrie kind.

Crush Intensity: 4/5 This book may not be for everyone, but I think if you like either of these authors (and how could you not, hello) or if you’re willing to try something a little different, this is a good option.  I completely enjoyed it and I’m very interested in the rest of the series.  It was really good. I read it in a day.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Children’s for sending me a copy of Burn for Burn.

The List

The List by Siobhan Vivian

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn’t matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, “pretty” and “ugly.” And it’s also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two. (Goodreads)

The Story:

Mount Washington High School has a nasty little tradition. Each year, during the week of Homecoming, a list is plastered all over the school naming the ugliest and prettiest girls in each grade.  Some girls relish the attention, consider it an honor.  Others, for more obvious reasons, are deeply offended. And no one knows who creates this list (though I think we all know that only females have the ability to be this bitchy. Let’s be real. Guys aren’t quite so calculated), but it’s a tradition that’s secretly passed down year after year.

Eight girls have eight very different reactions to their appearance on the list. There’s Abby, the freshman who’s thrilled to be the prettiest, Candace, the pretty girl chosen as ugliest because she’s such a hideous beeotch, and Jennifer, the senior who’s made ugliest every year of her high school career. And there are five other girls, each with a different story. It’s SO brutal and yet, it felt pretty authentic (which is sad, really).

My Take:

I liked this book. There was such a plethora of characters that I felt a bit confused at first (luckily there is a handy list in the front of the book), but once the stories got going it was easy to follow.  I enjoyed the writing style, which is clean and simple without being flowery or overly descriptive. There were certain stories I cared about more than others: Danielle, the ugliest freshman, and her plight, her boyfriend’s subsequent embarrassment and douchiness. Or that of Bridget, the prettiest Junior,  and her struggle with a burgeoning eating disorder. Those stories were far more interesting to me than Candace (the ugliest Sophomore) who was truly ugly on the inside and far more deserving of her title than anyone else on the list.  What was perhaps most interesting of all was the revelation of who wrote the list. I didn’t see it coming.  I can’t say that I was pleased because it made absolutely no sense to me, but I was quite intrigued.

Hmmmm.

My only real complaint (other than the major what the shizz moment I just mentioned) is that the story ends at the Homecoming dance.  For some characters this was a great moment to end on because  the loose ends had been tied up. For others, I felt their issues hadn’t been fully resolved (like,hello, Bridget gets into a smaller dress for the dance. Yay for eating disorders…not.  And then what happens to her?!!).

All in all, I think Vivian addresses an issue so central to women of any age.  Why do we need to look older and hotter than we are when we’re teens and then younger (and hotter) than we are when we’re adults?  And to what lengths will we go to feel good about ourselves? For some it’s not very far, but for others, they’ll go under the knife. What’s accomplished either way? There’s always someone prettier. While Vivian doesn’t attempt to offer solutions, she sheds light on the reality that even when we want to believe we don’t care what others think, we always do, even if it’s just the tiniest bit.

Crush Intensity: 3.5/5  It was good. I needed some more closure, but I don’t think that was the point of the story.