Book Review: Burning Blue by Paul Griffin

Nicole Castro is the most beautiful girl in her wealthy New Jersey high school until the day she’s splashed with acid on one side of her face.  The whole world takes notice, but no one can solve the mystery of who her attacker was.  When social outcast Jay Nazarro decides to investigate the crime, he puts his hacker skills to good use.  It’s when he gets to know Nicole that things get even more complicated.

Paul Griffin’s taut thriller will keep readers glued to the page as they race to figure out who splashed Nicole with acid.  Gripping, authentic teen characters and a snarky, slightly self-deprecating narration from Jay make this a standout in the YA market.  If you’re a Griffin fan or new to his work, this is one you don’t want to miss out.

Both Nicole and Jay are fully-realized characters who display growth throughout the course of the book.  Although Jay provides the book’s narration, readers are treated to snippets of Nicole’s diary throughout the novel.  Despite this, she remains somewhat of a mystery to readers and to Jay, which strengthens the book’s central mystery.  A cast of other characters and suspects make this a riveting read.

Although the novel starts slow, the build up to the satisfying and incredibly tense reveal and conclusion is well worth it.  Once it gets going, it really gets going, and while some savvy readers might be able to finger the perp before Jay does, the reveal is still shocking.  There’s a lot to think about and talk about here, and Griffin never gives his readers any of the easy, pat answers.

Definitely a contemporary YA novel to have on your shelves (personal or otherwise), this one is a standout in the mystery/thriller genre.  A deeply affecting author’s note (don’t read until you’ve finished the book!) makes it all the more poignant.

Highly recommended.

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin. Dial: 2012.  Library copy.

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