When Nicole Castro, the most beautiful girl in her wealthy New Jersey high school, is splashed with acid on the left side of her perfect face, the whole world takes notice. But quiet loner Jay Nazarro does more than that--he decides to find out who did it. Jay understands how it feels to be treated like a freak, and he also has a secret: He's a brilliant hacker. But the deeper he digs, the more danger he's in--and the more he falls for Nicole. Too bad everyone is turning into a suspect, including Nicole herself.
Award-winning author Paul Griffin has written a high-stakes, soulful mystery about the meaning--and dangers--of love and beauty.
Engaging from the start and a perfect mix of emotional and thrilling, Burning Blue weaves both a who done it kind of plot in with an across the tracks sort of romance. With a quietly charming protagonist and some very lively side characters, Griffin ha built a realistic tale centered around his characters while still having plenty of story behind it. Pulling in some great elements, and most definitely keeping readers guessing, this is a smart, well designed mystery.
Jay is an amazing character, a guy who is a loner by choice yet also, to some extent, by circumstance. Suffering from seizures, and having had an especially embarrassing one from of the whole school, he tends to keep a distance, even when he’s being friendly on the outside. Though not particularly ambitious, Jay is intelligent and perceptive, and has taught himself how to hack into almost anything. Definitely a useful skill to have, especially as he starts digging into Nicole’s case, it also gives him plenty to want to hide. Charmingly awkward at times, but endearingly determined at others, Jay has an authentic not to him that will have readers swooning.
The cast of this one is relatively large, pulling in not only Nicole and Jay’s parents but some of her friends, and a few other key people as well. While some have stronger presences than others, Griffin has crafted each of them individually, making them stand out and be more than a space filler. With a stark honesty to them, and Jay’s individual perception of each mixed in, Griffin doesn’t slack on the people he puts in the book.
There is definitely a romantic element to this one, built smoothly into the overall plot and never coming off as forced. Though Nicole has a boyfriend when she’s burned, and he’s even around for a bit after, it’s clear there is something forming between Jay and Nicole. While Nicole’s ex flits in and out, and is a suspect from the start, he doesn’t seem to put up too much of a fight over his girlfriend hanging out with another guy. Still, even with the issues, Nicole and Jay form a strong friendship that also develops into more, with a tension between them that is subtle yet effective.
This one has a twisty plot, one that will leave readers guessing and enthralled. With some stellar left hooks and plenty of turns, Burning Blue has a great mix of danger, softness, and action. Peppering little clues throughout, but having many of them seem totally inert until everything falls into place at just the right moment, Griffin has crafted his mystery beautifully, and in a way that lets readers guess at least some stuff without giving everything away too soon. Pulling in a strong emotional element as well, Burning Blue will entice readers from the start. Add in the bold writing, and strong voice, and this one is a hit that should not be missed.
Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publication Date: October 25, 2012