Series Review: Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Written by: Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Books: Burn for Burn (#1), Fire with Fire (#2), Ashes to Ashes (#3)
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Unlikely best friends with fiery secrets: the Burn for Burn trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian is now available in a collectible boxed set.

Postcard-perfect Jar Island is home to charming tourist shops, pristine beaches, amazing oceanfront homes…and three very unlikely best friends.

Lillia, Kat, and Mary.

Their friendship is secret.

They need each other to right some wrongs…burn for burn. But you won’t believe what else they’re hiding.

This collection of the complete trilogy includes hardcover editions of Burn for Burn, Fire with Fire, and Ashes to Ashes.

LetsTalk

Three very different teenage girls begin to meet in secret to plot revenge on the people who wronged them. The second I heard about this series, I knew to expect drama, tension, excitement, and lady friendships–all things I love. I had some issues with this series, particularly with the last book, but overall I had a good time reading it; it was fun and twisty and felt like a soap opera in the best way possible.

The Burn for Burn trilogy moves very fast, and it’s the kind of book where you sit down meaning to only read one chapter and before you know it, you’ve finished the entire book. The authors are really good at creating tension and drama that keeps you compulsively reading while never feeling too melodramatic. Every book ends with some sort of party where we see the fallout from the girls’ plans, and it’s explosive and exciting and makes you want to read the next book right-freaking-now.

I had some issues with the final book of the trilogy, which I’ll go into in the next section. If a disappointing ending colors your perception of the rest of the series, I suggest skipping this one. But if you like excitement and dangerous teenage girls and screaming a little with every page you turn, you might want to give this a try.

Didn'tWork

I’m going to start off with a relatively minor complaint. Was it just me, or did the girls’ planned revenge for Rennie in the first book seem a little bit underwhelming? Alex gets a week of pain and humiliation; Reeve (if things had gone according to plan) would have lost his entire future; and Rennie…doesn’t win homecoming queen? Okay. Maybe I just don’t understand because my high school never had that sort of thing, but I just don’t see the big deal at all.

I’ve already mentioned several times that I wasn’t a fan of some of the choices the writers made. My biggest complaint: Mary was a completely different character. There was a sort of explanation for why this was happening, but it didn’t work for me. I quite liked Mary in the first two books–the quiet new girl with just a few building notes of something off about her–and the cardboard-cutout single-minded version of her was underwhelming and lacked any sort of subtlety.

The resolution of the third book felt very anticlimactic. I like the idea of what happened, but the actual thing was short and inexplicable and left me disappointed. The decision a certain character made needed more time and more build-up than the three pages where it happened.

And then the “where are they now” epilogue? I was not a fan. I didn’t think it was necessary or satisfying. The character’s futures felt random to me, and it didn’t add anything to the story. Then there’s the fact that the writers spent the last two books building up a couple and then…nothing? The thing is, I was only mildly invested in the relationship in question, but the way the writers handled it in the end still didn’t sit right with me, not in this type of story. I would have preferred for the last three pages to go away entirely and the characters’ futures to be left open.

DidWork

My favorite thing about the Burn for Burn trilogy was how impossible it was to stop reading once I’d started. The easy-to-read writing, compelling characters, and electrifying tension made these three of the most compulsively readable books I have ever read. Case in point: I read Fire with Fire, which is over 500 pages long, in under a day. With each book, I just knew the authors were building up to something awesome. I could feel it growing and growing as the pages turned, and it kept me invested constantly.

I know a lot of people weren’t fans of the thread of paranormal running through the series, but to be honest, I loved it. It was surprising, and it made the series feel different from both the typical contemporary novel and the typical paranormal. And can we talk about the plot twist at the end of the second book? I screamed a little (okay, a lot) when I got to it, but the more I thought about the events in the first two books that foreshadowed it, the more excited I got. It made a lot of things made sense, but it also raised a whole lot of questions that I hoped the third book would eventually answer. Even though I’m ultimately not very happy about how the fallout from the twist was handled, I still stand by my love of the twist itself.

The characters feel real. I was most attached to Kat, who has that whole tough-girl-who-cares-more-than-you’d-think-at-first going for her, but really, I like all of them. The protagonists are flawed and conflicted and (obviously, given the type of book this is) sometimes do terrible things. The bad characters have humanizing moments and vulnerabilities; the narrative never lets you forget the bad things they’ve done, but I still ended up genuinely feeling for them. Lillia, Mary, and Kat all have very distinct voices and personalities, and the development of the friendship felt very believable.

The lady friendships are strong with this one! Kat, Lillia, and Mary are initially cautious of each other and don’t plan to continue meeting once the revenge is over, but eventually they begin to genuinely care about each other. Some of my favorite scenes are in the beginning of the second book, when they’re just hanging out and talking and being supportive and amazing.

Plus, the revenge plans themselves were lots of fun. (Until they weren’t).

 

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Sure! It’s a fun, intriguing, fast-moving trilogy that I’ve heard people compare to Pretty Little Liars. It’s not perfect, but the good points still make it worth reading.

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