Book Review: Burning Blue by Paul Griffin

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.

Release Date: October 25, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: Library

I saw this book on my library's New Releases shelf and based on the summary and cover, decided to give it a try.  I'd never heard of it, or read anything by Paul Griffin before, but was really intrigued by the summary.  I'm so glad I read this book: it was a great, powerful, emotional read!

Several years ago, I read and fell in love with Justina Chen Headley's North of Beautiful (read my review here).  I think I've been looking for a book to rival North of Beautiful ever since then, and Paul Griffin definitely has a contender in Burning Blue.  

Nicole is the most popular and beautiful girl in school.  She is loved by many, but also a target of jealousy.  The girl is practically perfect: who wouldn't be jealous?  One day at school, an unknown attacker squirts her in the face with acid.  Nicole's plight and subsequent disfigurement becomes her defining characteristic, as the story of her attack becomes public.  The police have very little information and have not found the attacker.  The entire town is speculating as to who did it, and Nicole is followed by photographers trying to get a look at her burn. 

Jay and Nicole meet by chance outside the school counselor's office.  Nicole is in mandatory counseling to facilitate an easy return to school after her recovery, and Jay is in counseling since he had an epileptic seizure in front of the entire student body at a pep rally freshman year.  He's been homeschooled since then, but the counselor and his father decide it's time for him to return to school.  Nicole and Jay become friends, as they both are struggling with huge issues and a change in the way the world sees them.  Jay decides to try and figure out who was responsible for the attack on Nicole, and the closer he gets to an answer, the more complicated and dangerous things become.  All the while, he's falling for Nicole, but doesn't know if she feels the same.  

I loved a lot of things about Burning BlueThe characterization, the fact that Jay and Nicole don't just magically bounce back from their respective traumatic events, the suprise twist at the end, and the writing itself were all outstanding.  It's rare I like a first person male narrative as much as I did in Burning Blue.  Griffin tackles powerful hot-button issues, and does
so with aplomb and tact.  I loved that his characters are in therapy and don't just return to normalcy as soon as they fall in love, like in so many other YA novels.  The love story progressed at a slow, appropriate pace, considering what the main characters were dealing with.  I loved that!  

The focus on art, as well as Jay's computer hacking, really added some depth and interest to the story.  I'm no computer geek, but I loved reading about Jay's hacker skills.  I just found it really interesting.  Griffin's pacing had me reading into the night: I kept telling myself, "just one more chapter," until I looked up and I had finished the book.  I sped through this book in a day, it was just that good.  I could not rest until I knew who had burned Nicole.  There was almost a thriller-type element to Burning Blue beyond the contemporary romance element. 

I loved this book.  I would recommend it to fans of contemporary YA.  I'll definitely be reading more from Paul Griffin!


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