September 19, 2013

Latest Read: Burning by Elana K. Arnold

Here are the basics ...
Burning by Elana K. Arnold
Publication date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Borrowed from library

Summary: Having just graduated from high school, Ben is set to leave Gypsum, Nevada. It's good timing since the gypsum mine that is the lifeblood of the area is closing, shutting the whole town down with it. He's headed to San Diego, where he's got a track college scholarship. But his best friends don't have college to look forward to, so to make them happy, Ben goes with them to check out the hot chick parked on the side of Highway 447. Lala and her Gypsy family earn money by telling fortunes. The thousands of people attending the nearby Burning Man festival spend lots of cash--especially as Lala gives uncanny readings. But lately Lala's been questioning whether there might be more to life than her upcoming arranged marriage. And the day she reads Ben's cards is the day that everything changes for her and for him. (Adapted goodreads.com)
My thoughts…
The good: The first thing I did after reading Burning was google "modern gypsy".  Not that I doubted the author's research (it's obvious she did her homework!) but she introduces a whole other side of gypsy, also known as Romani, culture that I was completely unaware of.  The chapters alternate between Ben, a teenage boy about to leave his small town for college and Lala, a Gypsy girl and fortune teller about to be married. I can't imagine actually living either of their lives but through the author's clear and engaging writing, I could picture everything clearly. And it was such a fascinating peek into a life and upbringing completely different from my own.

I don't know if it's just the books I happen to be reading but more and more, I'm seeing dual perspectives employed and I have to say, I really enjoy it. Obviously this won't work if you don't like one (or worse, both) of the characters but in the case of Burning, I found both Ben and Lala to be extremely likable. Ben is a nice guy with a good head on his shoulders. He loves his family, looks out for his brother, is a dedicated athlete and has dreams beyond his small town. But he's still a teenager, with hormone-filled thoughts and the author easily balances both sides. (Sidenote: Some of Ben's inner dialogue reminded me of The Infinite Moment of Us but it worked for me here and didn't come across as.. harsh?)

The "star" of the book though is Lala. Everything about her felt foreign to me so we were learning about her culture and traditions right alongside Ben. When I think of gypsies, my mind mostly conjures up the images Hollywood has shown us (and for some reason I keep thinking of Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame). I had no idea they had strict rules about arranged marriages (bride prices?!), the roles men and women play, their manner of speaking and clothes. As indignant as I felt on Lala's behalf, it was really interesting to learn about. And even though my culture is vastly different, I understood Lala's inner struggle to adhere to her beliefs while exploring her own desires and curiosities. I wanted her to be able to have both but it's obvious from the start that with Gypsy life, you're either all in or all out.

(Potential) reservations: There is a definite case of insta-love here but here's the shocking part: I actually didn't mind! I'm not even sure why it worked for me. Maybe it's because Lala herself is straight-forward and self-assured, without any of the usual games. So their relationship doesn't fall into any overly-dramatic traps or huge declarations of love. The consequences here are very real.

Do I recommend?: Yes! I enjoy learning about other cultures so if you feel the same way, I would recommend checking this out.

Happy reading!

3 comments:

  1. Ooooh, I definitely love learning about different traditions and cultures! And since I no almost zero about gypsies (I only know about Esmeralda from Hunchback, as well), I'm definitely interested! To be honest, I'd read this in an instant just because of the lovely cover! Haha, that's so shallow but it's true! I'm really glad to hear you enjoyed this, Rachel! I think I can overlook the insta-love as well since Lala sounds like a must-read character. :)

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  2. I really love dual POVs and often find myself a little disappointed when a book isn't, especially when it's a romance novel. Lol, yeah, I'm right there w/you on the whole mindset of gypsies. I'm curious to learn more about the reality of it though. Great review!

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  3. I have yet to read Burning, but I already knew I wanted to from the moment I found out it featured gypsies. It seems like such an interesting culture to write about, and I am so glad to hear that you liked it a lot! Our tastes are fairly similar, so I'm thinking I'll like it as well.

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