Burning - Elana K. Arnold

Goddamn it. Why is it so hard to write three star reviews? Seriously, I’d almost prefer reading a book that pisses me off to one that I feel ambivalent about because at least then I have plenty to say afterwards. So where to start? Um…I guess with a summary because, you know, it’s not like you can’t just read the frigging book blurb yourself or anything…

Ben is a small town boy from a gypsum mining community that collapsed when the bubble burst on the housing market. The company that owned the mine also owned the town and so they’re kicking everyone out that slaved away for them for the past twenty or so years because they’re corporate assholes. Unlike his friends, Ben has greener pastures in his future. He’s a good student and a runner so it’s off to USC for him. Enter guilt. He feels guilty for leaving. Guilty that his friends don’t have the bright future he does (because it’s somehow his fault that they didn’t bust their asses in school?) and guilty for leaving his kid brother to have to fight his own battles. 

Lala is a…gypsy? That question mark is because at the beginning of the book she says that her people prefer the term Roma or Romani and then proceeds to call herself a gypsy for the rest of it. She also points out that gypsies aren’t painted in a great light by other people but throughout the rest of the book her family is painted in a pretty horrific light. Um…okaaaaay. I’m just not even going to touch that one because if I think about it too much I may drop my rating even further. 

So these two meet because Ben’s friends drag him into her tent by the side of the road to get his fortune told. Boom. Insta-love. In just a few days, and a grand total of three meetings, Ben is suddenly willing to sacrifice the future that he’d worked so hard for and Lala throws away her family and her entire culture. 


Another issue I had with this were the drawn out, incredibly repetitive inner monologues from Lala. I get it, your father is a gypsy king. I get it, you’re not stoked about the fact that your marriage has been arranged. I get it, the walls of your house are thin and you can hear your sister and her husband banging. I actually got it the first time, thanks. 

I had other issues but I don’t want to go into them as it’ll just seem nitpicky. I did like the writing. I did like the concept and the fact that the voices of Ben and Lala were strikingly different from each other. I also liked the way things ended for these two. I completely understood why Lala made the choice she did. 

All and all I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either. Meh, the bane of my existence.

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