Author: Elana K. Arnold
Burning is not what I thought it would be. And that’s a good thing.
The idea of a forbidden romance is one of my favorite things to read. Something about having to overcome obstacles in order to be together makes me heart sing. Some of Burning is like that. Some of it is not. And the parts that don’t have to do with forbidden love are the ones that made this book for me.
Lala is a gypsy, in town in order to make money off the tourists in town for the Burning Man celebration. She plays up the idealized gypsy, telling fortunes and reading people in order to make money for her family. She’s engaged to a man her parents chose years ago and feels as though her life is not really her own.
Ben is getting ready to leave his family and his friends to go to college, leaving at the same time as the town he has called home for his entire life is being closed up and shut down. His father doesn’t have a job, his mother might not be able to support the family with hers, and his brother is talked about behind his back. Ben has the golden ticket–a full ride scholarship based on his running ability and his intelligence. Despite working hard for everything he has in life, he still doesn’t feel quite worthy enough, since it means leaving his family and friends behind.
When Ben’s friends force him to visit the gypsy camp in order to have his fortune read, the meeting of Lala and Ben has far-reaching consequences neither of them saw coming.
At first, I was worried this was going to be one of those insta-love novels, where the two characters fall in love after a day and decide to spend their life together. In a way, it is. But even more than that, it is about two people deciding to do what feels right and make the choices they want to. They have to deal with consequences of their choices and think about the future in a way they hadn’t before. For Lala, it’s about breaking free. For Ben, it’s about coming to terms with the cards he’s been dealt.
Arnold does an amazing job of writing these two people. I could feel their emotions and even though I wasn’t always a fan of their choices, I understood them, and that’s what is more important to me. These were two people, and even though we only got a little glimpse into their lives, so much was said about who these people are and the uncertainty of the future. Nothing is set in stone; action can change the future just as much as inaction.
Burning was a fantastic novel that was nothing like I expected. There’s romance, yes, but this book is about so much more than that. I applaud Arnold for writing this book the way she did. It’s an interesting read that can definitely spark new thoughts for anyone who reads it.
Thank you to Random House Children’s Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.