Book Review: “Burn Girl” by Mandy Mikulencak

burn girl authorFor Arlie Betts taking care of her druggie mother, keeping a roof over her head and making sure she doesn’t go hungry was her main concerns in life. When Arlie’s mother dies of a supposed overdose, her entire world changes. She’s placed in the care of the uncle she just found out she had, she falls in love with Cody – a guy who knows what it’s like to be different – and she realizes that, for once in her life, she’s not alone. However, when the past comes knocking on her door in the form of her irate, meth-cooking stepfather, Arlie feels as if the new world that’s formed around her is about to come crumbling down.

I think I have a strange addiction to books that feature young adults surviving against all odds. When I look in my Kindle, a majority of books involve young adults being badasses despite their situations. “Burn Girl” is only slightly different to all the other troubled teen books I’ve read. Arlie has been through some terrible experiences. She got badly burned on one side of her face when Lloyd’s (her stepfather) makeshift meth lab blew up. She’s also had to parent her mother and keep the both of them out of trouble from since she was 12. Yet, thanks to her mother’s alleged suicide, Arlie now has the opportunity to live the life she should’ve had. Somehow, with Arlie’s character, I was constantly reminded that I was reading about a girl whose life is tattered. Normally when I pick up a book I love to lose myself in the story and its characters so much so that I forget that I’m reading a story. I didn’t feel that kind of connection with Arlie or any of the other characters and wasn’t too concerned about how the ending would turn out.

Still, “Burn Girl” is another one of those rare books which send certain positive messages to its audience. One of those messages being abstinence. Throughout the story, Arlie and Cody have heated make out sessions but both Arlie and Cody agree “to wait” before deciding to actually have sex. I’ve read few YA novels that speak about abstinence so blatantly and really have to congratulate the author for choosing to add this theme into her novel. With a story that is as hard-hitting as this, I didn’t expect that the author would want to include such a theme but I’m glad she did. While I don’t think that YA novels that include sexual content are the only reasons teens choose to have sex, I think that it certainly influences their decisions.

Without a doubt the best part of this novel was the ending. Even though I knew that Arlie was going to take matters into her own hands once her stepfather reappeared, I hadn’t expected her to go as far as she did. Still, her choice to not give her stepfather the treatment she believes he deserves is what sets her apart from becoming just like him.

Rating: 7/10

Publisher: AW Teen (September 1, 2015)

Length: 288 pages

Source: ARC

Genre: YA Fiction

Completed: March 2016

Leigh-Ann Brodber is an upcoming enthusiastic journalist. She knows it is a field that is already heavily flooded by diverse opinions, hard criticism and occasional appraisal (when it’s due), but she’s sure she’ll be able to add her own colors to the journalism rainbow soon enough. Leigh-Ann currently attends COSTAATT, a college located in the Caribbean, where she’s pursuing her Bachelors in Mass Communication. She’s written film, stage production and food articles for various websites, and she’s also a born and bred animal rights activist, although she doesn’t think she’ll ever give up her rights to eat chicken. She has helped out at her local hospital many-a-time by indulging in weekly chit-chat with patients under a program called Candy Stripers. She recently started getting help for her long term Facebook addiction, she swears.