Review: Burning Blue

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.

(Description from Goodreads)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I seem to have a pattern going on, which is that for every 10th book review, the protagonist of the story is a male speaker. Weird how that worked out, huh? I actually wasn’t intentionally doing that, but I think I might try and keep with that pattern now (since it seems like these days that there are more YA books with female speakers instead of male speakers, so the recent ones with male speakers are hard to come by.)

While I was in the very early stages of reading this book, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. It was seriously…twisted…and it continued to be throughout the entire book. However, after getting over the initial shock of someone enjoying the hissing sound of acid as it burns skin, this book just really pulled me in, twisted nature of it and all.

The story is told from Jay Nazzarro’s (rhymes with Sbarro) perspective. Jay is practically a genius when it comes to hacking, which helps him throughout the book while he tries to uncover who sprayed acid in Nicole’s face and who was actually behind the attacks. Jay has been homeschooled for some time, mostly because the last time he was in school he had a seizure that caused a lot of chaos in his life. However, he agrees to meet with the school counselor to talk about his seizures, which happen several times during the course of the story. Not only is the story told from Jay’s perspective, but there are several chapters that are from Nicole’s perspective in the form of her diary. This was very well done, as it helped the reader not only connect with Jay through his telling of the incident, but it also helps to connect with Nicole, as these entries are very personal, though short. Jay has had a rather difficult life, especially with the seizures and how people perceive him because of them, so it’s very easy to not exactly feel sorry for him, but to root for him…to cheer him on as he not only gets closer and closer to finding out who attacked Nicole, but to winning her over in the process. Nicole is the same way, though for her you might find yourself rooting that justice be served for her. Nicole truly is a rather tragic character.

The character development was outstanding in this book. The relationship between Jay and Nicole is one that starts through a meeting of waiting for the school counselor and blossoms from there. Well, almost. At first it’s pretty rough, as Jay appears to be stalking Nicole and then has a seizure right in front of her, but the two bond over the fact that both are constantly in the public eye, he for his seizures and she for her new disfigurement. There are many other relationships throughout the story, like Jay and Cherry, Jay and Angela, Jay and his father, Nicole and Emma, Nicole and her mother, Nicole and her father, and so many more…but the one of Jay and Nicole has the most heart.

As for the actual mystery of the book, wow. I did NOT see the ending coming; I was so blown away, I literally sat staring at my NOOK with wide eyes. For those who enjoy a good, modern mystery story, I have found you a winner. However, there was quite a bit of violence, which I suppose just comes with the territory of this type of story. I mean, a random person sprays acid into the face of a girl, permanently disfiguring her for the rest of her life? Yeah, there’s going to be violence. But that’s not it. Jay finds himself in quite a few predicaments because of how involved he becomes in the case, even after the lead detective of the case warned him to not mess with it and to leave it to the police. There’s even self-inflicted violence by some of the characters, one in particular that I was not expecting. This book doesn’t shy away from tough topics, especially malice, cancer, and cutting. Hacking is also a pretty serious offense as well, but Jay is pretty much an expert at it. Several times he comes close to being caught by the police, but he has ways of making sure they never find out about what or who he has hacked and what information he has obtained. Pretty slick kid.

I would have bumped this book up to a 4.5 rating, but I stuck with 4.0 mostly because of two things. One was that there were several moments when I lost tract of certain aspects, like who exactly someone was, or where Jay had found himself now in the world of hacking, or what exactly was the purpose of Jay’s father and his little side story. Things of that nature. Also, I wish there had been more from Nicole’s entries, mostly because I wanted to know more about how she was handling the situation, and not just what she was telling people or what others were telling for her. It’s pretty obvious that she wasn’t handling it quite to the best of her abilities, but that wasn’t sprung on the reader until almost the very end of the book.

This book was full of suspense, mystery, great characters, and tough issues. I applaud Paul Griffin at being able to take on such a heavy task, especially with a YA novel.

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