Burn Baby Burn: A Review
First off, a huge shout out to everyone who voted for my next read! I knew Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina was going to be a fun read from the beginning. Three pages in, I found a Candlewick Press sticker with Medina’s signature. It was a welcome surprise, and the fact that my mother bought the book from Goodwill fulfilled by Amazon made it considerably better.
Nora is 17 in the infamous year of 1977 New York. After a freezing winter, a boiling hot summer explodes with arson, a blackout, and serial killer named Son of Sam, who is shooting young women on the streets at random. With family troubles of her own, Nora can’t wait for her 18th birthday. Now, there’s a cute guy who started working with her at the deli, but is dating even worth the risk when the killer especially likes picking off couples who stay out too late? Read a full summary here.
What I liked about the book was Medina’s use of a suspenseful tone from the beginning, pulling the reader not only into Nora’s story, but all of New York’s. I didn’t know this was a work of historical fiction until I finished the novel and read the author’s note. The summer of ’77 was full of crime, drug and gang activity, and arson; let alone crawling with a serial killer. Medina laced Nora’s story with memories of her own during the fearful time.
What disappointed me was that the Son of Sam serial killer angle takes a back seat. I was expecting the book to be more of a murder mystery than a coming of age tale. It starts focused on the killer, but slowly centers itself on Nora and her family trials. Her mother is struggling to support the family, and her brother is slipping into hard drugs and crime. Nora is left fighting to build her future while suffocating under the weight of her family sufferings.
The cultural representation in the novel was so refreshing. Our narrator is Hispanic, and her mother often speaks in Spanish. Stiller, an African American woman in the ‘70s who is all about feminism, is a prominent presence in Nora’s life and a timely character for young adults to read at this time. I am very passionate about diversity in books. I think every child and young adult should be able to read about a character they connect to, whether it’s LGBTQ, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and cultural and ethnic minorities. Medina shaped a well-rounded novel that touched on a few of those topics.
I finished the book in a marathon read; sitting down just to read a few chapters, and 250 pages later finished. If you’re a subscriber, keep an eye on your email this week. A giveaway is coming next week, and subscribers will have a chance for an extra entry. If you aren’t a subscriber, now is the perfect time to become one!
-Go with the tide-