Monday, April 26, 2010

Burned... or not.

A sort-of-review of Ted Dekker and Erin Healy's novel Burn

I can’t even begin to tally the number of books I’ve checked out from my library the past few months only to return them in disgust after snoozing my way to chapter three. Whether the problem is boring prose, indistinct or cliché characters, or a dragging plot so many of these books have not lived up to their jackets.

So I was a little worried about whether or not I would like the new Ted Dekker/Erin Healy collaboration, Burn. Dekker has rarely disappointed me and his debut duo with Healy, Kiss, was a book I enjoyed. (Enjoyed. Not head-over-heels, but yes, enjoyed.) So I gave it a shot. But a little past chapter three I hit a wall of wondering if I really cared what happened to the characters in the end. But I kept going—kept holding on to hope that this writing duo would not let me down.

And I’m glad I did.

I was drawn into the life of protagonist Janeal Mikkado from the start—though I wasn’t sure I liked her. This caused me a moment’s pause—and some more moments of “What the…?” when the story moved on after Janeal was forced to make a… choice. The decision she made was… dichotomous. A bit confusing to the reader. But… I decided to stick it out.

***Spoiler note: HAVE NO FEAR! I will do everything in my power to avoid putting even the hint of a spoiler in this blog—especially concerning a new release! I want you to read for yourself! You read, you decide!***

Although I understood Janeal to be a conflicted character, even so, I was confused as the story moved away from tragedy and Janeal became… one-dimensional.

I have to admit, I was disappointed at this point. The story twisted and turned and I was stuck taking a ride with a one-dimensional protagonist. I almost gave up, closed the book, and threw it in the car for my next trip to the library returns slot. But as it turned out, the Dekker/Healy duo had a completely valid reason for making Janeal become such an unlikable, cardboard cut-out.

And the reveal takes a bit of blinking. Janeal’s recognition of her state of being (to avoid spoiling it I will remain vague) is a bit quick for my taste; a bit too easy for her to recognize and rather shocking for the reader. But as Janeal’s discovery becomes clear in an… “Are you kidding me?” sort of way everything vague, dichotomous, and downright odd is explained… sort of.

“But,” you think, “really?” You wait for the contradiction—the denial of the hypothesis. You say to yourself, “Surely not. There’s got to be some other explanation!” And then BAM! You get to the end, you’ve made it through the fire, so to speak, and the chaff of the story has been separated from the wheat. All at once your eyes are misty, and the story has spoken to you, and… you realize you’ve been reading an extended metaphor all along—an allegory-of-sorts—which makes you examine your own heart, your own past, your own choices and ask, “What if I had…(fill in the blank) instead?”

So… did I get burned by taking a chance on giving precious time to read this novel?


But not how you might expect.

Sometimes the mirror’s a flame.

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