How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball [in Library Journal]
Morbid fascination will keep listeners riveted to Jesse Ball’s (A Cure for Suicide) shocking new novel as teenager Lucia Stanton chronicles –with unnerving detachment – her troubled life through a collage of blunt paragraphs, random lists, outrageous predictions, and a “pamphlet” bearing the book’s title inserted part-way into the story.
Lucia’s father is dead, her mother is in a mental institution; she lives “pitifully” with her “really nice” septuagenarian aunt in a converted garage. Expelled after refusing to apologize to a student she stabbed for touching her most prized possession – her father’s lighter – Lucia transfers to another school where, amid detention and the wrong type of friends, one of her teachers recognizes her sharp intelligence and enables her to apply to a “fancy school” that just might save her life. But between adults who fail her and peers who mislead her, Lucia’s future faces inflammatory disaster. Narrator Emma Galvin’s steely presentation is an ideal embodiment of Ball’s untethered, lost young rebel.
Verdict: With crossover potential for adult and young adult audiences, the demand for Fire should encourage expedited acquisition for most collections.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult