Thursday, November 22, 2012
Review: Burning Blue by Paul Griffin
Title: Burning Blue
Author: Paul Griffin
Rating: 3.75/4 Stars
Where do I start when it comes to Burning Blue? It's different. In a genre of literature so popular, it's hard to find anything similar to it. It's part mystery, part romance, and part something else entirely. I can't quite wrap my head around it to be perfectly honest. On one hand, I loved it. It was intriguing, kept me flipping the pages, and startled me with its eventual revelation. On the other hand, I was expecting something a little different when I went into it. Although there are such few male-narrated novels out there, this was one instance where I felt like having a male-narration was just easier when in reality, I wanted the female protagonists inner perspective so badly. Yet, at the end of the day, Burning Blue is the type of book I can only regard with warmth since truly, it's a book I can't imagine not recommending.
Nicole Castro: gorgeous, model, beautiful, smart, sweet, kind. Burned. When a mysterious attacker throws acid on Nicole Castro, the most beautiful girl in town, not to mention one of the nicest people as well, it's all the people of Nicole's suburban town can talk about. When Jay coincidentally bumps into Nicole, just days after the attack, he can't help but feel for her. Unlike most of the residents of their town who pity Nicole and only wish to see the scar beneath her bandages, Jay knows what it feels like to be treated as a freak, an outsider - after all, he's lived like that his whole life. Thus, when an unlikely friendship strikes between the two, Jay knows he has to find out who did it. Who threw the acid at Nicole? Surprisingly though, sometimes, the answers are staring you in the face all along...
Burning Blue is one of those novels that starts out unusually slow, only to pick up and leave you flipping the pages, eagerly wanting to find out more. While the mystery behind Nicole's acid thrower is the obvious forefront of the novel, I was pleased to see the amount of depth it covered as well. Jay, the narrator of our story, has a strong and distinct voice, one that is a touch snarky, kind, and afraid. It is Jay, better than anyone else, who understands what Nicole is going through for he too has been marked out, labeled, and ridiculed in his past. As a victim of bullying, amongst other issues, Jay and Nicole bond through their understanding of one another. Yet, what I loved most about their friendship was that it didn't blossom overnight. If anything, these two had their own mix of troubles, hurdles to cross, and efforts to make to find true friends in one another. Yes, there is an undercurrent of romance between the two, but it's subtle and I appreciate that Griffin never allowed the potential romance to dominate the novel and turn it cliche. Everything was balanced out in such a way that spoke volumes about the writer's skill.
In addition to Jay's narration, we are treated to small glimpses of Nicole's voice through diary entries that are scattered throughout the novel. It was here that my minimal issues with the novel began to creep forth, but it never become truly grating until the very end of the story. You see, Nicole's diary entries barely give us access into her head. It is Nicole who has acid splashed on her face and while we witness more into her psych than other outsiders, since we are privy to Jay's unique perspective, it still remains to be an outside perspective. Through Jay, we feel for Nicole and understand her predicament and grow to admire her courage in the face of her tragedy, but do we really know the girl beneath? Not really. Frankly speaking, I wish we did. Burning Blue is a stand-alone and, as such, it wrapped up perfectly, but I found myself wishing for more of Nicole's dark, gritty, and even depressed perspective into this issue. It made me curious to know what she was going through and while I'll definitely give Griffin props for writing a unique outsider perspective that was this thoroughly enjoyable, it still left a little to be desired.
Well, that minor qualm aside, Burning Blue truly did have a plethora of redeeming qualities. Jay won me over with his narration and Nicole won me over with her budding friendship with Jay, but even more than that, the mystery in this novel fascinated me. More than a who, my mind was churning through the possibilities of why? By rendering someone else disfigured, you aren't making yourself any more pretty, so why do it in the first place? I was so impressed by Griffin's discussion of this issue, amongst others dealing with beauty, and the eventual revelation came as a complete shock. A complete shock. I've read my fair share of mystery novels and I'm sure if you look through my reviews, half of them will complain about having predicted the plot beforehand, but not this one. I love that feeling of being utterly surprised and if for nothing else, it's worth reading this book just for the mystery and the psychology behind it. If you're even remotely interesting in humanity and the types of issues that compel people to do the terrible things they do, you can't afford to miss out on this one.
Overall, Burning Blue was a thoroughly impressible novel. I found myself strangely attached to all the characters - even the plethora of secondary ones - and I am thrilled to report that not only is the plot unpredictable, but this contemporary fails to fall back on typical tropes and cliches such as the Absent Parent Syndrome. Family is another important aspect to this novel and if I had the time, I could go on about all the themes this book espouses. Yet, more than that, it makes you think. In my opinion, it could have been even more provocative had we seen more of Nicole's perspective, but there's always wishing for a sequel from her PoV in the future...who knows? Either way, Burning Blue is an intriguing new contemporary you won't want to miss out on.