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Book Review: BROOKLYN, BURNING by Steve Brezenoff

Blurb from Goodreads:



When you're sixteen and no one understands who you are, sometimes the only choice left is to run. If you're lucky, you'll find a place that accepts you, no questions asked. And if you're really lucky, that place has a drum set, a place to practice, and a place to sleep. For Kid, the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, are that place. Over the course of two scorching summers, Kid falls hopelessly in love and then loses nearly everything and everyone worth caring about. But as summer draws to a close, Kid finally finds someone who can last beyond the sunset.

About the Author:

Steve Brezenoff is the author of dozens of chapter books for younger readers and the young adult novel The Absolute Value of -1. Born in Queens, Steve has lived in the suburbs on Long Island, on a couch on Manhattan's Upper East Side, a few feet from the 7 train in the Sunnyside neighborhood in Queens, and across the Hudson River in Jersey City--but none of those places has stuck with him or been missed as acutely as Brooklyn, where he lived on and off for much of his twenties and early thirties. Now he lives in St. Paul, with his wife and two sons.

For more on the author, visit his website or Goodreads page.



The Book:

I won this book from a giveaway hosted by the publisher Carolrhoda Lab. I had forgotten that I entered the giveaway in the first place, so imagine my surprise and elation when they contacted me about my prize. It was weird 'cause I couldn't remember what the book was about, so when it arrived, I had no preconceived notions at all (and yes, I didn't google it beforehand. It was a pure cold read).

I took it with me to my daughter's dance class, hoping to kill the hour with some quiet reading. I didn't know I would have a hard time putting it down.

The magic and charm of Brooklyn, Burning lies in its masterful, lyrical prose. The author took risks by switching into different POVs and alternating between the past and the present, but he did it so well that it didn't jerk me, the reader, out of the story. Instead, it let me dive in and then float along with the waves. I was entranced by the beauty of it all.

There are several angles in this book to draw perspectives from--we can talk about the *LGBTQ characters, the setting, the central theme, the love story, the parental units and the characters' relationships with them, friendship, music, summer affairs, arson, etc. The thing is, you can take away what you want from the novel--it's the reason why if you read the reviews for this book, you'll see varying opinions. There are ugly truths and beautiful truths, and even those in-between. For me? I simply LOVED Brooklyn, Burning.

Kid, the main character, is Kid. He/She could be anyone, could be you. (For this review, I will refer to Kid as male since that's how I envisioned him when I read the book. Others have noted how the author never really tells us what or who Kid is. But as reading is partly influenced by the reader's own perception, there is no wrong or right way as far as Kid's gender issue is concerned. For all I know, you could be reading it and thinking of Kid as a girl. Whatever works.) Kid has been living "in the streets" after his father kicked him out of the house for being LGBTQ. He hangs out at Fish's bar, down in the basement, where he plays the drums with Felix, a musician and a junkie and Kid's first love. But then a fire in the warehouse (where Kid and Felix used to sleep) broke out and destroyed everything Kid has hold dear to his heart.

The next summer, Kid meets Scout, who is another musician looking out for a band to play with. It is during this time that the police holds Kid as a suspect for the warehouse fire. We see glimpses of Kid's relationships with his friends, mentors, Felix, his parents, and Scout.

Brooklyn is a hard place to be, but at the same time, it takes in Kid just the way he is--and unconditionally. In a way, Brooklyn itself is a character as well as the setting for this story.

My favorite part is when Kid and Scout are trying to come up with a name for their band. Kid asks Scout what her songs are about, and she says it's about the world in general, about people. And so they become People. (p.144) It's very simple, and yet so poignant. I feel like this is the core of the story. That no matter who we are, or what we are, or what others think of us, in the end we are all PEOPLE. We are one and the same. It's about acceptance and tolerance and real love. The kind of love that doesn't kick out their child into the streets simply because they do not fit your definition of what they ought to be. The kind of love that hurts, and laughs, and feels sorrow.

If you like stories that make you think and look at the world in different perspectives, pick up Brooklyn, Burning and let its music seep into your soul. I highly recommend this.

*LGBTQ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer

5 comments:

Sarah Pearson said...

Yes. I want to read this one.

Anita Grace Howard said...

Excellent review, my dear sparkles. I remember you talking this one up to Kalen. :)

Jenny Phresh said...

I love your amazingly thorough and detailed book reviews! This one sounds really interesting. Thanks, popsicle! I just called you popsicle. I don't know why, but it made me laugh.

Theresa Milstein said...

This author has lived in my old hoods - Queens and Long Island.

Thanks for the detailed review.

i'm erin. said...

Ok, I totally want to read this. Thanks for your detailed thoughts. I love hearing what other people have to say about books.

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