Fun Size Reviews: September 23, 2011

Steve Brezenoff’s sophomore novel, Brooklyn, Burning, is a gorgeous but painful piece of literary fiction. It is both poetic and sentimental, gritty and raw. The book is deeply rooted in its setting, imbued with the vibe of Brooklyn. After being kicked out of the house, Kid lives on the streets of the city, crashing in a warehouse or the cellar of a bar. While Kid’s life isn’t easy, Kid manages to find kindness among others who know what it’s like to be lost, lonely, and unaccepted. Kid also manages to find love, first with Felix and then with Scout, both characters who share Kid’s love of music, but only one of whom will last. Brooklyn, Burning is a pronoun-less love story, the genders of the main characters are never identified, and their sexualities are left purposely ambiguous. The narrative complexity is remarkable, and Brezenoff’s ability to pull it off is what makes this a particularly impressive book about what it’s like to be a kid trying to make it on your own while figuring out who you are and who you can trust.

In a world in which coffee and chocolate are illegal (I know this is almost too painful to imagine), Anya Balanchine must support her family on her own after losing her parents to murder. Her father was the head of the “family,” leader of Balanchine chocolates, but a life of organized crime has its costs. Anya watched her father’s murder, and her brother Leo was injured when a hit meant for their father killed their mother instead. Without her parents, she provides for her grandmother, brother, and younger sister. Life gets particularly complicated, though, when Anya’s ex-boyfriend is poisoned by a bar of Balanchine chocolate that she gave him.

Gabrielle Zevin’s All These Things I’ve Done is a clever futuristic dystopian novel. It’s greatest asset is its world building, which is thorough, and yet manages to remain in the background rather than distracting from the action of the novel. Some of Zevin’s characters grew on me, particularly Anya’s off-limits romantic interest, Win, but Anya’s tough girl exterior made her difficult to connect with entirely. Her voice vacillated between conversational and formal, with Anya at her most charming in her asides to the reader. Similarly, the book seems to move between the time in which the stories are occurring and the time in which they are told, presumably long after, and this occasionally adds a sense of detachment and pulls the reader out of the action. As like most other books these days, Zevin’s latest is the first in a series, and I’m hoping that I’ll fall a little harder for the characters and writing style in the next books.


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