Before, I was a million things. Now I’m only one. The Burned Girl.
Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn’t need a mirror to know what she looks like–she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her.
A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be “normal” again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends–no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever.
But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn’t have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn’t afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a boy who loves theater just as much as she does, and slowly, Ava tries to create a life again. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she’s going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review but this did not affect my opinion at all.
When I first got an email about this book, I had never heard of it before. But when I read the blurb, I knew that it was going to be a book that I enjoyed. It had similar vibes to Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel which I read back in 2016 but it was even better. I love reading hard hitting YA contemporaries with uplifiting messages because they just make you feel so empowered and this book was no different.
I say this in basically every review I write but I read books mainly for the characters. Ava was flawed and you saw how much she was struggling with her appearance. What I loved the most about her was seeing how much her character changed throughout the book. She really developed in such a beautiful way but in a way that felt natural. She didn’t just wake up one morning and have a completely different outlook on life, she grew into her new normal.
I also loved the side characters. Piper was such an interesting character and I wish we got to see more of her. I feel like she was slightly underdeveloped, as we only really got to know her through the impact she had on Ava. But I loved how the book explored the idea of guilt in a friendship, shown through Kenzie and Piper. I wanted the book to just be a little bit longer to see more of the aftermath of the reveal at the end between those two. I loved Asad (hello Pakistani boy who is obsessed with musical theatre, yes please) but I wish we got to see more of him as well as more of her friends from before the fire.
This book deals with a lot of different themes. I thought it was just going to be a book about self love and acceptance and it definitely was about that but that’s not all it was about. It dealt with the topics of grief and guilt. But for me, the standout theme was friendship. We saw so many different types of friends in this story and it really just showed how much a great friendship can help you change your life. I was worried for a moment in the middle that this was going to become one of those cliched books, where a guy falls in love with the girl and she’s suddenly happy with how she looks but I’m so happy that it didn’t go down that route.
One thing I definitely was not expecting from this book was the amount of musical theatre references in this book. I loved how the main character was obsessed with Broadway but I also appreciated how it was a subtle obsession. Books littered with pop culture references can get a bit tiresome but I think this book had the perfect amount. Specific musicals were only really mentioned in conversations which meant that it felt natural.
I was also not expecting the amount of poetry that was going to feature in this novel. I’m not the biggest poetry fan but telling a story in verse is something I appreciate and I loved how this book featured that.
To conclude, this is a wonderful YA contemporary debut novel that I think is going to take the world by storm when it releases. You have a bit of a wait until it comes out since it is having a limited hardback run in October in the UK and is getting published in paperback in May 2020, but it is definitely worth adding this book to your list of anticipated releases and pre-ordering it ASAP.