Flash Burnout by L. K. Madigan
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: October 19th 2009
Buy it from: Book Depository (free shipping worldwide!)
Gold star (4.5/5 stars)
Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Blake has a girlfriend and a friend who’s a girl. One of them loves him; the other one needs him. When he snapped a picture of a street person for his photography homework, Blake never dreamed that the woman in the photo was his friend Marissa’s long-lost meth addicted mom. Blake’s participation in the ensuing drama opens up a world of trouble, both for him and for Marissa. He spends the next few months trying to reconcile the conflicting roles of Boyfriend and Friend. His experiences range from the comic (surviving his dad’s birth control talk) to the tragic (a harrowing after-hours visit to the morgue). In a tangle of life and death, love and loyalty, Blake will emerge with a more sharply defined snapshot of himself.
Review: Madigan portrays a brilliant insight of the mind of a teenage boy in her debut novel. Blake has unusual parents, his dad works in the morgue and cuts open dead bodies while his mom parades around in a shirt and underwear in the morning. This bit immediately captures the reader’s attention and leave them wanting more. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of photography in book being an aspiring photographer myself (though I love digital cameras).
Even though Blake is supposedly a comedian, I did not find his jokes funny and very rarely laughed-out-loud. The jokes came off as Blake trying too hard to be funny and I didn’t see the humor in them. However, I did snicker once or twice as his jokes are usually sarcastic. Blake is an interesting protagonist and it was fun reading the book from his perspective.
Marissa has a very complex family background which draws the reader in and sparks curiosity about her absent parents. Readers cannot help but root for her and Blake to be together despite Blake being already with Shannon. From the start I disliked Shannon as she was the typical girlfriend, pretty and popular but (surprise!) she plays soccer. You would expect her to be the head cheerleader. The rest of the secondary characters were alright, I didn’t really like them too much but Garrett, Blake’s brother, did impress me by doing something unexpected.
Madigan did a wonderful job of exploring issues like drugs, death, family and friendship-turn-crush in this book. As the book has serious issues I would recommend it to teens ages 14 and up. I would like to add that Blake is quite a sexually aroused guy. He keeps picturing himself kissing/touching Shannon which might be what 15 year old teenage guys think but I just want readers to be prepared for it.
Madigan’s writing is brutally honest and refreshing. Flash Burnout is a novel which I recommend to fans of How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan as well as Sarah Dessen fans.