Burning Blue by Paul Griffin
Publication Date: October 25, 2012
Target audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: burn victim, computer hackers, thriller, suspense, mystery
Format read: ARC from ALA Annual (Thank you!)
Summary: After half of Nicole’s face is burned by an anonymous person using a squirt bottle filled with acid, Jay begins to investigate and hunt down the culprit, hacking into computers, phones, etc. searching for clues.
You guys know I love contemporary YA books. I big puffy heart love them. One genre I haven’t reviewed since RBR began is thrillers. A little known fact is I used to thrive on thrillers (mostly adult fiction). I went through a phase where I was reading lots of ’em, but since I dove head-first into YA books, I haven’t read a single one. I’ve told you guys before, but I’m reiterating it now, I like the thrill of the chase — I like to be caught off guard by the author. Boy, oh boy, did Paul Griffin deliver with Burning Blue.
Told from the point of view of Jay, a boy who suffers from seizures and the aftermath of an incident where he peed his pants in front of his high school, we learn about Nicole. She is the girl who has it all: popularity, beauty, smarts, money. She’s not a snobby popular girl, though. She’s nice and kind to everyone. (She’s one of those girls many people would be envious of.) One day as she’s rounding the corner to make it to class on time (after a mini-make-out session with her boyfriend Dave), she is squirted in the face by a bottle of acid.
Half of her face is damaged.
Jay and Nicole bump into one another before their scheduled therapy sessions at school six weeks after the incident. They begin talking and hit it off. Jay leaves that day wanting answers. A little known fact about Jay: he’s a genius computer hacker. He begins breaking all kinds of laws by hacking into the police department’s files and tries to solve the mystery of who did this to Nicole.
Burning Blue is filled with so much mystery, intrigue, and tons of suspense. It’s a story of whodunit — I needed to know who hurt Nicole, but I was fueled to devour the book because I wanted to know the motive. I never knew when a valuable clue was being given or when I was on the right track to guessing who the guilty person was. Griffin comprehensively developed a full cast of characters that constantly had me wondering:
- Who would want to hurt Nicole?
- Did no one see what happened?
- Her boyfriend, Dave, was in the hall when it happened. Is he lying about not seeing the incident?
- Was Dave involved?
While Jay is our main storyteller, we get glimpses of Nicole through minimal journal entries and a few notes written by one of her therapists. I began to speculate whether or not Nicole could have harmed herself. Did she do this to herself? What would cause a person to inflict this kind of self-harm? (I should mention I also questioned Jay’s fixation on Nicole and finding the villain. Was I reading from the criminal’s point of view?!)
Burning Blue is a complex story, weaving the drama of Jay’s life together with the pressure of Nicole’s. Jay lives with a dad who isn’t around much and his mother passed away. His social life is laughable since his aforementioned seizure incident, which led him to be homeschooled for a year. Nicole’s burn wasn’t the only complication in her life. Her parents recently split and her relationship with Dave is full of friction since the accident. Oh, and photographers are stalking her so they can make bank on her story.
While I very much enjoyed Griffin’s Stay With Me, I felt he tapped into something completely unique, dark, and suspenseful with Burning Blue. I welcome more of this type of story from him. I highly recommend you pick up a copy as soon as you can so you can experience Griffin’s incredible writing and the insanity of the mystery.
(Also: Don’t forget to read the acknowledgments after you finish Burning Blue. Griffin offers incredible insight about his inspiration for the story.)