Saturday, November 27, 2010

Arson by Estevan Vega

Published 2009.

Arson Gable feels like a freak. He can create fire. He never asked for it. He never wanted it. But he can't shut it off.

Before now, three things were true: he both loved and despised his grandmother; his life was going nowhere; and he was alone. But when a strange girl - who feels more normal behind a mask than inside her own skin - moves in next door, Arson hopes to find something he's never had: purpose. Using what he fears most about himself, Arson must face his consuming past and confront the nightmare that is his present as he walks the fine line between boy and monster. (book back blurb)

I just have to say that the mask on the cover of the book truly freaks me out. It's like something out of a horror movie that'll be waiting to stab you in the dark. Out of context, anyway. Well, even in context I wouldn't want that thing sneaking up on me in the night but still. It's freaky.

I loved the story between Arson and Emery. It was both painful and heartbreaking and I was rooting for them to end up together. Vega did a good job portraying the dichotomy between the two "freaks," if you will. Both are social outcasts through no fault of their own and they both find each other in the dark, whether they want to be found or not. They see past each others' freak show for the person underneath, something that no one else could to. Of course, that plays into my niggling that not one person could see past "the freak" in either of these characters; that only other "freaks" could manage that because they knew the pain such social outcasting caused. While I liked the heart-wrenching, I wish that cliche was used less.

Like Arson, I both loved and hated his grandmother but I couldn't help but wonder about her purpose in the story. By the end it looked like she was hiding something from Arson about his past, or maybe his father but even as the story was ending, that reveal is never made. The connections are just insinuated, not confirmed. That nagged at me because, for the most part, Grandma just played the role of Mommy Dearest to Arson for no apparent reason other than she was a bit bat shitty.

Ultimately, up until the last few pages of the book, I felt that the whole fire starter premise could have been removed entirely and replaced with something completely mundane and it would have had zero effect on the overall plot. I just really couldn't help but think that for nearly the length of the book. Why did Arson have to have this magical element to him? It's not affecting the plot at all. He could have been just match happy and it wouldn't have made a difference. So remove the fire starter and you still have a really good plot but that underlying irrelevance would be gone.

And then at the end, with the man in black it just threw everything for a loop, and not necessarily in a good way. Because the reveal of Arson's fire-starting relevance was dragged on for the majority of the book, by the time some semblance of explanation comes in, it's a little late. Not to mention it's lacking an actual explanation. It's 'we're men in black, you're different and we're taking you. End.' I'm not a big fan of books that so blatantly set up for a sequel like that, especially when the problem at hand in the greater length of the current book is never actually resolved. Yeah, people were burnt to shit Carrie-style (again, cliche popular kids totally taking advantage of the freaks and freaks freak out) but it's the first time Arson's abilities come into play and it's the penultimate chapter. Live by that old saying if you have a gun in the first act, it better go off by the third. Well, I saw the gun, I saw it cocked but it appears to have jammed.

Like I said, I really liked the premise between Arson and Emery. It's a great story that I think Vega wrote really well. He had an excellent dynamic between the two. But there were just too many niggling nuances that bugged me. If you're going to read it, I'd say read it for Arson and Emery's story because that's really where the love is for me. I just really couldn't care less about the whole fire starter thing because it was pretty irrelevant for about 98% of the story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've seen this before, but haven't read it yet. It looks intriguing.

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