Review: Flash Burnout

L.K. Madigan’s first novel, Flash Burnout, drew my attention when it won the 2010 Morris YA Debut Award.

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.–From Goodreads

Madigan shows that authors do not always have to write what they know. She is neither a teenager, nor a boy, but her representation of Blake in all his adolescent male glory is impressive. Blake is, like most teenage boys, witty and hormonal at times, and scared and confused at others. While the idea of choosing between girlfriend and girl friend is by no means a new one, Madigan’s rendition succeeds more than many. Blake and Marissa are likable characters who come to know themselves and each other better through photography. The reader also gains insight into their lives through a photography-related quote at the beginning of each chapter. (This book is especially recommended for lovers of photography, though that is by no means a prerequisite.) Blake’s girlfriend Shannon initially comes across as overbearing and obnoxious, but one comes to sympathize with her and likely recognize a bit of themselves in her, as well. I look forward to seeing what Madigan will come up with in the future; I think her writing will only improve as she hits her stride.

L.K. Madigan’s next book, The Mermaid’s Mirror, is scheduled for release in October of 2010.

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