Burning Blue by Paul Griffin
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Release Date: October 25th 2012
Synopsis: How far would you go for love, beauty, and jealousy?
When Nicole Castro, the most beautiful girl in her wealthy New Jersey high school, is splashed with acid on the left side of her perfect face, the whole world takes notice. But quiet loner Jay Nazarro does more than that–he decides to find out who did it. Jay understands how it feels to be treated like a freak, and he also has a secret: He’s a brilliant hacker. But the deeper he digs, the more danger he’s in–and the more he falls for Nicole. Too bad everyone is turning into a suspect, including Nicole herself.
Award-winning author Paul Griffin has written a high-stakes, soulful mystery about the meaning–and dangers–of love and beauty.
I opened to the first page of Burning Blue with extremely high expectations. How couldn’t I with such of a intriguing synopsis that not only promises a fascinating story but a look into the meaning and dangers of love and beauty? And then I read all two hundred eighty-eight pages in one day, absolutely breathless. Burning Blue is did not just reach my expectations, but exceeded them. Paul Griffin doesn’t hold anything back in this provocative and compelling novel.
Burning Blue immediately captures a person’s attention by depicting the scene in which Nicole Castro’s face is splashed with acid by an unknown person, completely ruining a half of her face and also changing her life. Everybody knows about the incident that stole the beautiful girls beauty, but only one person, Jay Nazarro, goes after the culprit. And what happens after that is an addictive story with many suspects, a developing friendship, a remarkable exploration of the affects of such a horrible crime, and the support that can get someone through it.
It should really be told that this book is not a “beauty is what’s on the inside” story that continually tries to nudge the message into your mind. Burning Blue does indeed show that a person is made up of things other than how beautiful they are, but Griffin manages to keep it subtle, keeping the story far from being cliche.
Griffin did an amazing job with the two leads of this book. Jay and Nicole are characters that felt, well, very complete. They were both layered, felt real, had their own flaws, big and small, and fitted seamlessly into the story. It is imperative for the story such as the one in Burning Blue to have characters that feel real so that it might feel as if the events happening in the story could really happen. Otherwise, the story would have much less impact. So it was good that Griffin was able to create such fantastic characters.
Jay, the narrator, evoked a great amount of interest from me. He has been suffering from frequent seizures caused by a head injury, and has only started to come back to school after having a seizure during a pep rally in front of everyone. Being a loner by choice, Jay was only mildly interested in the mystery of who burned Nicole. But after the developing of somewhat of a friendship between him and Nicole, he takes it upon him to use his skills as a hacker and bring the culprit done.
I admit to being a little afraid of how Nicole’s character was going to turn out. She was the most beautiful and popular girl in school, until the acid was splashed on her face, so it is understandable that she would lament over the loss of her beauty–and that was what I was afraid of. I didn’t want a character that constantly thought about how beautiful she used to be. My worries were unfounded, though, since I quickly found out that Nicole is a very brave person. She is just trying to get through this terrible change in her life using the support she is being given by the few people around her. And, frankly, I thought she was an admirable character because of that, even though I was suspicious of her at times.
The friendship (not romance, even though Jay does mention that he is attracted to Nicole) between Jay in Nicole was charming, to say the least. It was friendship built from them both knowing what it is like to be quietly pushed away by people and living with the fact that they are already labeled. But even with that friendship, the situation causes them to have to constantly try to steady the trust that has been established between them. It all felt very real. And I also loved the conversations and interactions between the two.
The mystery that Griffin crafted definitely keeps you alert and aware of everything happening in the story. With so many different suspects, I was constantly changing who I was pointing a finger at and always suspicious of many different people at the same time– even the victim herself. And when the culprit was revealed my jaw dropped. I never saw it coming. The mystery was carries out so well, executed so brilliantly. The motives were explained, the shock was all there, and the clues scattered about all felt so meaningful and obvious when everything became unravelled. I was at lost for words.
I do realize that if I had savored more details and had spent more time lingering on a page that I might have been able to solve the mystery earlier in the story. But even so, I believe that Griffin did an excellent job that deserves nothing but praise.
Burning Blue contains dialogue that is surprisingly engaging and is the source of much of the humor in the book, alongside the humor that emits from Jay’s narration. Really, I wouldn’t have minded if this book was just a script. Griffin’s prose is also engaging, flows well, and fits the mood of the story. Entries in Nicole’s diary are also inserted into the pages of the novel a few times, which, while the transitions were a bit jarring, tended to only keep you even more suspicious about everything.
At the end of the novel, I remembered that a review recommended to read the author acknowledgments pages right after you finish reading the last page. So I did. And happily discovered that the Griffin told about some of the things that inspired him to write the novel, some of which are very sad, but it was still fulfilling to read and I really do feel like I had taken something from the acknowledgments.
Burning Blue is a novel that truly does give an impact. Filled to the brim with mystery, thrills, suspicious, hope, and remarkable characters. And the perfect pacing only makes Burning Blue more addictive. I am thoroughly impressed with this book and believe it to be one of the best mystery novels in the Young Adult genre. This is a real gem and I can’t recommend it enough.