Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book Review: Burnout by Adrienne Maria Vrettos

SUMMARY: On the day after Halloween, Nan wakes up in a subway car. She is not dreaming. She doesn’t know where she’s been or what she’s done. She’s missing a whole day from her life. And she’s wearing skeleton makeup and a too-small Halloween costume that she doesn't remember putting on.

Nan is not supposed to wake up in places like this anymore. She’s different now, so far from that dangerously drunk girl who hit bottom in the Nanapocalypse. She needs to find out what happened to her, and fast. As she tries to put together the pieces of the last twenty-four hours, she flashes back to memories of her previous life. But she would never go back to her old friends and her old ways. Would she?

The deeper Nan digs, the more disturbing things get. This time, she may have gone one step too far. This time, she may be a walking ghost.


The Short Version:
Mysterious and toeing the line between spinning out of control and cleaning up, Burnout is both rough and hopeful. Though a few key points aren’t fully explained, and this reader would have preferred for some scenes to be more fleshed out, the overall concept is well versed and engaging. Alternating between the past and present, and bridging the gap between the two, Burnout takes readers for a ride.

The Extended Version:
Nan is an easy character to get behind, one who has made mistakes in the past but who has a solid determination to stay clean now. Scared of what her forgotten night could mean, but even more set on fixing the mess herself, she has a strength in her that will pull in readers. With two layers of development to her, both her past and present are told and collide. Readers not only see how she spiraled out of control before the book ever started but also see the changes she further goes through as she tries to unravel the truth of what happened. This mix allows for a sympathetic character with a strong narrative.

Though there is a small cast of characters, the story stays focused almost entirely on Nan. With much of the present happening only around her, and a few people cropping in now and then, readers get a straight and vivid look into Nan’s head and the world through her eyes. With a mom who clearly loves her but can’t immediately forget Nan’s night of binge drinking, and a little brother who brings a new sort of life to the book, Nan’s home life is far from horrible. With a best friend who is the root of her troubles, but a lasting loyalty all the same, Nan’s struggle between ‘right and wrong’ is a driving force for the book.

While the plot is steady, and the shift between the past and present are smooth, there are several scenes that feel too rushed, without enough depth put into them. With a few bigger points left unexplained, and an ending that happened too immediately, there were a few areas this reader felt could have been improved. Still, the sense of confusion and worry Nan goes through comes through strongly, and the concept itself is a well done one.

The writing is strong in voice and easy to get into. Alternating between past and present tense, there is only a little confusion at the start in regards to this before adjusting. With some great descriptions, and a soft emotional air throughout, readers will fall instep beside Nan.

Realistic in what happens, though missing a few explanations that are needed, Burnout is a good blend of the past and present and when they collide. Nan is a great character, one who has made some mistakes and wants to keep them in the past, yet who harbors a constant set of worry and fears. Hitting on some rough points, and open in it’s scope, there is a raw edge to this one.

Source: ALA
Reading Level: 14 and up  
Hardcover: 208 pages 
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: September 13, 2011


  1. The synopsis really drew me in for this book, and I will put this on my tbr list as I'm curious to read it.

    Great review of this book!

    Nerd Girls at Books to the Sky

  2. Great review, I haven't really heard of this book before now :) Too bad it's not as good as one would hope.

    The Bursting Bookshelf

  3. Great review! I have this one on my shelf but I haven't read it yet. Your review makes it sound pretty interesting and like something I might enjoy. I will have to check it out.

  4. This is the first I hear of this one but the premise sounds really interesting.

    Xpresso Reads

  5. Even with the problem areas you highlighted, this sounds like an amazing read. I can't imagine how scary it must be to wake up and find a whole day of your life gone and not knowing what you've done or who've your hurt, but Nan's story sounds really powerful.