Ok, before I even begin this post, I wanted to point out the fact that I don’t usually review young adult fiction, and I’ve even said no to some people who have asked me to, because I told them “I don’t review ya fiction” but here I am eating my words. I’ve accepted that by posting this review I’m opening the flood gates to many more potential YA books- so be it! I’m a convert, I really enjoyed this book and it didn’t take me very long to read it, so why the hell not? I have the attention span of a teenager anyway (no offense to teenagers everywhere).
It’s no secret that I used to work for Cormorant Books, so when they send me a book and tell me I’m going to like it, I read it regardless of whether I actually believe them or not because 99% of the time they’re right. It’s a great press, and they produce beautifully written books, so I’m always willing to pick up something they’ve published (or one of their imprints in this case). Ok enough with the shameless promotion, on to the book!
I enjoy a good mystery, and although this book isn’t part of the mystery genre, it had a really good hook-these teenagers are in search of a special piece of graffiti that’s supposed to describe ‘all-knowing truths’ or some equally important-sounding message. The graffiti artists themselves are essentially left-wing anarchists who still live at home, so they’re unable to fully release their chaos upon the world but they all have some pretty strong (and crazy) ideas about society so no doubt these messages that they’re in search of may seem a bit odd to people with full-time jobs and mortgages like myself. However, Burning From the Inside was also a pleasant reminder of how much I despised particular things in my youth for no good reason at all, so I could identify with the general distaste and rage that many of these characters exhibited.
Aside from the interesting plot, the characters themselves were believable, and shockingly, likeable as well. TNT, or Thom was probably my favourite character, because although he’s run away from home and has no doubt worried his parents sick, you’re still rooting for him. He’s a nice guy who’s making the best of the hand he’s been dealt, which helped me get over the whole ‘busted for doing illegal things like graffiti’ part of him.
Which brings me to another point-do I like graffiti and agree with the characters’ beliefs that it’s a kind of misunderstood art? No, I don’t, because as I previously mentioned, I own a home, and when people write crap on my fence I get pissed off because I have to pay to replace it, and I consider graffiti a form of vandalism. (I challenge you to show me one person who owns their own place and tags public property as well-you can’t! Save that shit for your sketchbook).
Luckily, you don’t need to agree with graffiti as an art if you want to join this book. In fact, I’m not sure which side of the fence the author stands on, she brings up the point a few times in the book that graffiti isn’t the only way to get your point across. In addition, she introduces characters who also have different view points on the matter (not just adults or authority figures either) so it’s not a black and white book by any means. Perhaps I’m just generalizing about YA (the genre and the kids) when I say this, but I think it’s smart for Walde to not pick sides either way. Simply put, teenagers don’t like being told what to do, so writing a book that supports either side wholeheartedly won’t sit kindly with the younger generation. Really, I don’t think any fictional story should try to further an author’s personal agenda because it allows the reader the space to come up with their own conclusions, which I appreciate in any form of writing, no matter who the audience is.