Check out my other reviews for Kevin's books: Summer on Fire, Sebastian's Poet, and The Reasons.
Burn Baby, Burn Baby by Kevin Craig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Francis Fripp, the self-loathing MC of BURN BABY, BURN BABY by Kevin Craig will singe you. After all, he's dragging along the haunting memories of what his father did to him scarred across his face. Francis sees his life like a movie, panning in and out of scenes as if he's not even there, or maybe just an unimportant prop in the action of his own life. The voice of Francis is spot-on, sarcastic and cynical teen boy. As you keep reading, you'll understand why he's so calloused and hardened.
With each page, I felt the tendrils of smoke curling upward, which may have caused me to tear up a few times. Having read all of Kevin's books, I'd say BBBB captures the real-life quality of fully-realized characters as seen in Kevin's brilliant debut, SUMMER ON FIRE, and brings the emotional fortitude of THE REASONS, Kevin's strongest work thus far, with an ease only a seasoned writer could bring. This makes me incredibly excited for Kevin's upcoming book, HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN. I love reading his male-centered YA books, since YA is primarily female-driven MCs, and Kevin is an author who landed on my auto-read list of authors. His contemporary is page-turning, richly-developed characters, and stories with twists and turns that leave the reader gasping for breath. I find myself reading most of his books in a single sitting. I can't wait to read every word, and BBBB is no exception.
I loved the relationship between Francis and Rachel. It reminded me of Eleanor and Park. They seem to be such opposites at first, but as you read, you'll understand their attraction is much deeper than their affinity for Shakespeare in the park (a section I absolutely loved!).
Trip was an interesting and complicated choice for Best Friend. He's Francis's protector when it comes to his nemesis, Brandon, the boy who named him Burn Baby. But that same fierceness comes with a price. He's often seen lashing out at those around him, with an aggression that goes largely unchecked, and which could turn on you in an instant. I found myself making comparisons with Francis's father (shudders) and Brandon. This makes Trip the kind of foil character that only an expert writer could pull off. The way the plot weaves together, I found Kevin's use of his characters such an enjoyable part of the experience.
Francis was right. It reads like a movie, and I hope Hollywood is paying attention. With so many other fine YA books going to the movies, I hope we get to see one or more of Kevin's works up on the big screen, big as life.
As Francis slowly comes out of his shell, with the patience and coaxing of Rachel, who sees past his scars to the boy inside and out, he must decide if he can finally let his past go, or grip it with both hands and light it up to burn for a world in need of a survivor as strong as Francis Fripp. The ending left me wanting more, and I hope we'll revisit Francis and Rachel and the others soon.
Highly recommended. A fast read that will make you feel for those who face bullies every day, and still manages to warm your heart despite these hardships.
*Thank you to Curiosity Quills Press for providing me with an eARC in exchange for a honest review.
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