REVIEW: Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

burn-for-burn-9781442440760_hrAUTHOR: Jenny Han

DATE PUBLISHED: September 18, 2012

PUBLISHED BY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

RATING: 3 out of 5

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads): Postcard-perfect Jar Island is home to charming tourist shops, pristine beaches, amazing oceanfront homes—and three girls secretly plotting revenge.
KAT is sick and tired of being bullied by her former best friend.
LILLIA has always looked out for her little sister, so when she discovers that one of her guy friends has been secretly hooking up with her, she’s going to put a stop to it.
MARY is perpetually haunted by a traumatic event from years past, and the boy who’s responsible has yet to get what’s coming to him.
None of the girls can act on their revenge fantasies alone without being suspected. But together…anything is possible.
With an alliance in place, there will be no more “I wish I’d said…” or “If I could go back and do things differently…” These girls will show Jar Island that revenge is a dish best enjoyed together.

 

If you ask me, the sole reason for me to pick up this book is because, hello?! This is Jenny Han! I’m a sworn advocate of her books. I wouldn’t say this is one of her best but I managed to get to the end so yeah, tolerable.


Writing Style

Burn for Burn trilogy is a collaborative writing between Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. I haven’t tried the latter on any of her solo novel yet but this book as a testimony, it’s still a must-try. With Jenny Han, her writing’s discernibly my drug.

The story is written in first person from three different perspectives. I’m quite a fan of switching POVs as it gives the reader a piece of his or her mind. Oftentimes, we don’t see the rationale of people’s acts until we try their eyeglasses, put on their shoes.

Basically, Burn for Burn’s target market is the adolescent populace. A book with such an objective should have a writing style that’s age-appropriate and that’s exactly how it’s carried out here. It marvels me how both of them are excellent at teen slangs and adolescent jargons when they’re clearly way past that stage already. Slipping into their writing is easy. No highfalutin words, mind-boggling sentences, jammed up incoherent ideas, and what-not.

Theme

Fundamentally, retribution is the main  theme in Burn for Burn. Three girls wanted to get back to those who offended them oh-so-mightily. They think less and act more. Classic teenager trait. To some extent, I like how this theme (retribution) was presented. I was hooked from the time the protagonists allied until the end. Stealing homecoming queen and sports jock king title, causing someone’s epidermis to turn into a hot red, swollen mass. They were so lame and silly and not well thought-out. Again, classic teenager mind. Despite the huge connection to adolescent tendencies, I doubt this (manner of vengeance) will ever translate to reality. Some teenagers may possibly do it in a simple swish-and-flick but these characters, whose profiles are mostly immaculate (even Kat whose worst vice is just underage sex and chain-smoking), they’re going to need some serious crime-plotting tutorial before they are ever executed them properly. And what is it with teenagers and lock-jimmying?!

Burn for Burn also touched on themes like underage sex, teenage insecurities, and a little bit of fantasy (what?!). Stereotyping is big. A queen bee acts like she runs the school and uses her smoking hot body to make people do sh*t for her. Quarterbacks are swooned at. People opposing these alleged school rulers are thrown at the pit of shame. Those not conforming to society’s standard of beauty – the fat and the ugly – are bullied. It makes me wonder if this really a pattern on American high schools as these tropes appear in practically every high-school based books and movies. 
Plot

Kat, Mary, and Lilia are strangers until a single vengeful intent unites them in the divine realm of the girl’s restroom. They’re plotting against a bully, a guy who hurt them in the past, and another guy who took advantage of their younger sibling. This is a hundred percent a hackneyed plot. I’ve seen this before in movies (Mean Girls to name a classic) and numerous books published prior to this. Not by any means did I get surprised on how the events went down. The ending was flat out predictable. Of course their plan worked otherwise why do they continue plotting? But one thing went off course. Why? Because this is the first in the trilogy. They have to sell the next books. The authors had to put that cliffhanger-on-pretense as bait for their readers to still want the subsequent books. That, too, was outright predictable.

Characters

High school is a big ocean teeming with fish from various species – the bully and the bullied, the haves and the have-nots, the well-known and the nobody, etc. Clearly, this characteristic of diversity was present on this book and CLEARLY, everything’s a cliche simultaneously. Let’s take essential ones in bits.

Lilia – She’s Korean but other than her looks, I don’t see any cultural traces of it in her. Lilia’s worth a million dollar. From her fancy house to her top of the line clothes to her swanky manners, everything screams how filthy rich she is. Her POV is my favorite, not because I can relate, but because it’s the most dynamic.

Kat – She’s a badass, I-hate-you-rich-townies kind of girl. Needless to say, she’s a trope. There should always be at least one couldn’t-care-less, pretend cool bitch in a story to create the perfect stereotypical environment.

Mary – She’s basically the most boring character in the book. Her character development was flat. Something about her supposed super powers annoyed me because I think this is plainly not stained with fantasy. Oh and did she ever mention how Reeve crushed her heart and soul into tiny fragments? If you failed to catch it, don’t worry she’ll repeat it in like a million times.

Rennie and Reeve – They’re basically the king and queen of Jar Island high. They own the place like Regina George. I like how they’re not rolling in the dough but they still manage to keep the thrones to  themselves. A spark of diversity!

Alex – He’s a victim to this messed-up act of retaliation. Despite being proven not guilty of his crimes, nothing much happened.

At some points or two, one can’t help but relate to what these characters were suffering from. I didn’t care about taking home the Homecoming crown as a high school but I’m sure others made a huge fuss about it. Some of us hated the group who ate at the best cafeteria table during lunch. Some of us were part of that popular peer. Burn for Burn showed how it felt being in both. This sort of put females on pedestal at some point. I like how, at an overall view, girls are not portrayed as sweet weaklings but rather dark and cunning capable of pulling craps once thought only boys could.  


For some reasons, I still kept my nose stuck to this despite the rampant typecasting and obvious banality on this book. The writing style was a huge factor, that’s for sure.

Before closing this review, let me display my favorite quote in this book:

“This is Karma. I’m a bitch. Can you think of anyone who deserves a bitch slap?”


TWITTER @thebookgasmblog|  GOODREADS @ Trisha Ann

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15 comments

  1. I devoured these books in two days from a friend recommendation and at first i was hesitant, it seemed long and too many POVS but i actually liked it and wanted to know the ending. It was a good series but not amazing you know

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    • Ahh yeah. I get where you’re coming from. It becomes a drone after some time. The story can be wrapped up in at most 2 books. Still, I got hooked and read the next installments as well!

      Like

  2. I haven’t read Jenny Han before but if you love her, then I gotta read her books!

    What a shame about this book. And OMG I asked the exact question re: cliques in American high schools. My high school was never like that, but with all the representations of high schools on American TV… it makes you wonder. Is there a kernel of truth? (American friends, please confirm, haha!)

    Buuuut it sounds from your hilarious and awesomely snarky review that I shouldn’t pick this up… what Jenny Han book do you recommend? 😀 I shall make it one of my 2016 missions!

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    • Right?? I once asked my cousins in the States if high school there is really like what they portray in books and movies and they said the resemblance is there but not entirely.
      I really liked To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. It doesn’t have much depth compared to other books but it’s just the perfect “getaway” if you’re reading too much fantasy 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ouchhhh this review burns, Trisha! I love it though, and I agree with you in a lot of things. It’s like watching another Shake, Rattle, and Roll. You know where it’s going but you just need to watch it (or at least that’s how I feel, haha).
    In contrast, I did not like Jenny Han’s other books, but I have to agree that the writing is infectious. It’s so easy to get lost in their words. I hope Fire with Fire made up for this one!

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    • Hahaha you’re right! Shake, Rattle, and Roll is just too predictable but people still buy it.
      What Jenny Han books did you not like? Her writing just easily absorbs me. And yes! Fire with Fire is way better! I finished it last week! OMG Reeeeve! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • YEEESS I can’t wait for review to come out and we can discuss it! 😀 I tried To All the Boys I Love Before but I cant stand the protagonist so could not finish it :/ but I agree her style makes me want to devour her books xD

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      • Work’s insane this holiday! I’ll probably be able to put up the review by 2016. Ahh I love To All the Boys but I have to agree with you! Lara Jean can be obnoxious crying over petty things. XD

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I like your review style. Is similar to mine 😛 Hehe…

    When I first watched Mean Girls, I loved it. It was funny and entertaining, but I was also very pleased that I didn’t go to that school.

    I didn’t go to school in US, only in my home-country and in Canada. I do have family in US. It depends on the city and school. Some school are the way movies and books describe them. Sure, in fiction things tend to be exaggerated a little bit (or more), but since US schools are portrayed again and again in a certain way, it must be because there is some truth to it. There is no smoke without fire.

    In Canada there are cliques and groups -the popular kids, the rockers, the newbies, the loners etc. My first day at school in Toronto, the teacher said something like “This our new student, say hi/welcome L to our school” and nobody said anything, they didn’t even look at me. :))) – it was silence I felt so awkward. o.O
    And I thought of my old school, when a girl from Malaysia was a new addition to our class (in my country, we don’t have many students/people from other countries), and all of my classmates were surrounding her and introducing themselves. Hehe…What a difference.

    Sorry for the rant.

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    • Ahhh I see. I just often see this kind of American high school setting in books and movies. There’s gotta be a reason why it’s always there. I didn’t know this thing exists in Canada too.

      Awww Laura *huuuug* If it will make you feel better, I also felt that kind of awkward moment when I had my first day on my first work. Everyone had established friendships and everyone’s so selfish to teach me way. That was the worst. Well, at least we got through it in the end. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yea, so the books have some real life inspirations.

        It wasn’t the fact that I didn’t make friends right away or smth. The teacher said “tell her hi” or something, but the class was completely silent and ignoring me. o.O Even the teacher had a face…:))) I’ve found it quite rude, to be honest. 😀

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  5. The really funny thing is that I think I hauled this before you did (though I could be mistaken!) and you ended up reading it first. After reading your review, I feel like this may not be one I’ll enjoy but I’m still going to read it since I already have the trilogy. Though I liked Mean Girls and Easy A when I first watched them as a younger teenager, I don’t think I tend to like books with those plots and set in high school. Hence why I didn’t like the Private, Gossip Girl, and The Clique series all that much growing up. And also the reason why I plan to say away from The Duff unless my local bookstore has it in the bargain section (the movie was cute though). 😛 Awesome review, Trisha!

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    • LOL YES! I saw this on your book haul post first. I ended up reading this because Joan @ Fiddler Blue said it was good and that it’s an easy read. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy lately and this was a good break from it.

      I liked Mean Girls and Gossip Girl as a younger teen but looking back as an adult (more like adult-ish hehe!), there were lots of stereotypes I didn’t notice before. Was it really like that in America? We had cliques in high school but not as extreme as what’s on this book and other American films.

      Thanks, Summer! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • We do have cliques and different types of groups that generally hang out together in high schools. Bullying happens too, but Mean Girls and Gossip Girl definitely has more juicy scandals and drama than real American high schools, hehe. >.<

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