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Review: Burn Girl

Burn Girl - Mandy Mikulencak
I received a copy from Netgalley.

Actual Rating 3.5 stars.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much i enjoyed this book after a fairly slow start. The over all tone was dark and gritty and certainly uncomfortable at times. The plot was a little boring, but I found myself really liking the characters. 

The novel tells the story of Arlie, a sixteen year old girl who has spent most of her life taking care of her meth addict mother. Arlie's face was terribly burned in a meth lab explosion leaving her face disfigured and without a sense of taste or smell. Naturally, this makes her very self conscious. She won't go to school and lives with her mom in a motel until her mother overdoses and dies. Out of nowhere an uncle she's never heard of comes to claim her.

Arlie has one friend she's known for most of her life, Mo. Mo is the type of best friend everyone should have. She was simply wonderful. She was there for Arlie no matter what, stood with her through thick and thin and didn't put up with any bullshit. She spoke her mind and didn't try to coddle Arlie at all. 

Arlie herself has some understandable attitude problems. She's so used to taking care of things she doesn't know when to ask for help. She's uncooperative with her therapist and the other adults who are trying to make things go smoother. Her uncle Frank is a pretty decent and sensible guy. He's her mother's brother who was aware of the drug problems and really stepped up to the plate when Arlie needed it.

Arlie has to struggle with rules and boundaries and high school for the first time in her life. Turns out Arlie is actually a gifted singer and joins the choral group where she meets handsome blind boy, Cody. They become friends pretty quickly. Its the first crush Arlie has had to deal with. The story tells of how she navigates the new friends, a mean girl, and struggles to come to terms with her mother's death, supposedly ruled as an accidental overdose but she's convinced there's something more to the story. But since her mother was a known druggie, no one is taking her seriously. 

Mo and her uncle Frank listen but seem to agree. Mo and Frank were pretty much the high lights of this novel for me. I just loved the way they were there for Arlie, even when she could be very stubborn and difficult. Their willingness to help and accept her after everything were just amazing. 

Arlie's relationship with Cody develops throughout the book into a soft, sweet romance. There was one bit I found rather unbelievable regarding the sudden return of Arlie's senses of taste and smell, it was cute, but I didn't really buy it would be that simple.

For the most part, it was a pretty damn good book and would have been a four star if it wasn't for some of Arlie's actions at the end of the novel. Throughout the novel, there has always been the lingering threat of Lloyd, Arlie's meth-head stepfather. She and her mom escaped from Lloyd a long time ago, but Arlie is still afraid he'll find her. When Lloyd does make an appearance, he demands money that he believes Arlie's mom stole. From then on Arlie goes into panic mode to protect her new life and her friends and starts making some incredibly stupid decisions. 

A watered down version of the truth comes out from Arlie when people find out Lloyd has contacted her and things rapidly take a dark and scary turn. Even through every other character in the book knows Arlie is doing some stupid things, she doesn't seem to listen and does it anyway! That stupidly knocked it down a star for me. Though I did like to see Arlie had to face some consequences for her actions. She didn't just get away with being idiotic.

Aside from that, I really did like this book, it was a great character driven novel. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Albert Whitman & Company for approving my request to view the title.