Blazed by Jason Myers ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: divorce, broken hearts, San Francisco, music
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)
Warning: Blazed contains drug use, sex, and manipulative parents.
Summary: When armed with oxy and music, Jamie’s life is smooth sailing. Mostly. When his mom’s actions go a step too far, he’s sent to live with his estranged father in San Francisco for a week. Little by little, the stories his mom has told him about everything start to unravel and he finds himself in the midst of yet another complicated situation. Will he stay in San Fran? Is this his chance at a fresh start?
This is the second book I’ve read by Jason Myers and I have one question:
Why are we not talking about him anymore?
Everyone talks about wanting authentic and diverse books in their lives and well, here is another one of them that seemed to fly under the radar during release week. (Cue the sigh.)
Jamie, the main character of Blazed, is like meeting Holden Caulfield in present day. He’s passionate, he hates fake people, and he has many many observations when it comes to the world. Unlike Caulfield, Jamie depends on Oxy to get through the rough times and is also a musical genius. He can thank his mother for both of these things. She’s a retired ballet dancer who drinks and drugs herself so hard that she has no recollection of anything that happened the previous night. Jamie has learned to take care of their household, save his mom from crappy bars and shitty guys, and despite all of that, remains completely devoted and sure of his mother’s love for him.
As a reader, I was like: wake up, Jamie. Obviously, she was a terrible influence and putting unnecessary stress on the life of her teenage son. But, on the other hand, when he mentioned “the good days”: how she respected his art and encouraged him to listen to all this great music. She wanted him to do well. So the love was there even if everything about it was completely messy.
And it got even messier. When his mom takes things too far (even for her), Jamie is shipped off to San Francisco to live with a dad he has never gotten to know. In fact, all he knows about him are the stories his mom has relayed to him over the years and (I know you will be shocked) they are all super negative. It’s not surprising Jamie doesn’t warm to him, even when his dad tries so hard to make him feel comfortable and at home in SF. I don’t blame Jamie. He has felt tossed aside and forgotten for so long (he’s 14) and believes that his father ruined his mom. But, slowly very slowly, the truth begins to come out.
I loved Jamie’s time in San Francisco. For the first time, he was meeting people who truly cared about him and who totally inspired him. And for someone who loved music like he did (love doesn’t feel like a strong enough word here), Jamie was literally living in his dream world. But the drugs are aplenty in this new world too, causing a breakdown — totally different than the one that occurred at home. The big difference: there are consequences and truths that come to the surface, threatening to change life as Jamie knows it.
Is Jamie ready for that kind of change? He’s falling in love with the beautiful, musical, honest Dominique. He’s bonding and making music with new guys. He has a stepsister who looks out for him as much as he looks out for her. Can he be clean because he wants to and not because his girlfriend wants him to be? Can he and his dad maintain this talking honestly man-to-man thing?
The whole time I was reading Blazed, I was waiting for the shit to hit the fan. And that has to be a lot of shit because things were not looking that great as it was. Myers sucked me into the life of a young kid, forced to act like an adult, and constantly thrown into his mother’s delusions. Even as he adopted his mother’s addictive personality, Jamie was so utterly charming and you couldn’t help but root for him. I had no idea how the book would end. If I would be heartbroken or proud. It’s safe to say… I’m still not sure because there are definitely two sides to every story and we all have reasons for making certain decisions.
Blazed was dark, eye-opening, full of appreciation for art and individualism. It was fast-paced for its page count, and full of so many emotional up and downs. But it was the raw honesty of the main character that kept me hooked. I’m still thinking about him.