Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan
Fifteen-year-old Blake has a girlfriend and a friend who’s a girl. One of them loves him, the other one needs him.
When he snapped a picture of a street person for his photography homework, Blake never dreamed that the woman in the photo was his friend Marissa’s long-lost meth addicted mom. Blake’s participation in the ensuing drama opens up a world of trouble, both for him and for Marissa. He spends the next few months trying to reconcile the conflicting roles of Boyfriend and Friend. His experiences range from the comic (surviving his dad’s birth control talk) to the tragic (a harrowing after-hours visit to the morgue).
In a tangle of life and death, love and loyalty, Blake will emerge with a more sharply defined snapshot of himself.
Flash Burnout is a rarity among YA novels for a number of reasons.
1. It’s edgy and realistic: No vamps, no zombies, nary a faery, but the subject matter does include a number of difficult subjects including drug addition, parental abandonment and sex (parents, don’t cover your eyes yet). I love vamps as much as the next reader, but it’s refreshing to visit real problems in the real world — there are no potions, runes or spells to undo the choices the characters make.
What’s more, the story doesn’t have a neatly-wrapped ending like so many YA novels, where the guy gets the girl, evil is defeated and mortals sleep in peace. Life has loose threads and so does Flash Burnout (and I promise, nothing more spoilery than that). That’s not to say it isn’t satisfying – it is, with its central message of “actions have consequences.”
To that I say, amen.
2. It’s written from a male POV: Blake’s voice is, hands down, the best male POV I’ve read in a long, long time. There is a serious lack of boys’ POVs in YA. Because girls read more? With more characters like this, even reluctant male readers will be forced to bow down to Madigan’s genius. She captures a guy’s high school experience like Blake captures “gritty” with his ever-present camera.
3. It’s laugh-out-loud hilarious: Readers may not realize this, but it’s extremely difficult to write humor, even for funny people, but again, Madigan handles this with ease. Not only that, she creates necessary and ever-present sexual tension using humor, reminding this reader of her best guy friends from high school.
The funniest scenes involve Blake’s parents, particularly his dad, when he has “the talk” with Blake after realizing he may soon be taking things to the next level with his girlfriend. It’s awkward, embarrassing and shoot-soda-out-your-nose funny. It’s also great to see present, supportive parents, in a genre where parents are largely MIA.
Do yourself a favor and pick this one up — it deserves a place in your to-read list. Then tell us what you think in the comments or at email@example.com.