Title: Nothing Left to Burn by Patty Blount
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From the YALSA and RITA Award-nominated author of Some Boys, a smoldering new contemporary YA about love, loss and finding a place to belong.
I promised Matt I’d do this-become a Junior Cadet. That I wouldn’t let you break me down. I know you hate me. Blame me for everything you lost. But that day I lost my brother and my dad. You could never be proud of me, could you? I was too “different.” So, just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m saying goodbye. Maybe someday, you’ll miss me.
Reece’s words make her ache. Amanda understands wanting to belong. As a foster kid, the firehouse where she volunteers is the only place that feels like home. She wants to help Reece, but his dad is her boss. And she won’t risk her place as a Junior Cadet-it’s all that she has. But when a string of arsons suddenly point to Amanda, her whole world is about to go up in flames. And the only way to save themselves is to risk getting burned.
Nothing Left to Burn by Patty Blount is an emotional journey of healing for main protagonist Reece Logan. In an effort to improve with his strained relationship with his father, Reece honors the promise he made to his dying brother, Matt, by joining the local fire department’s junior cadet program.
Despite living in Matt’s shadow, Reece absolutely adored him and he is deeply grieving his loss. He is also living with the horrible guilt that he is responsible for his brother’s death and his troubled relationship with his father compounds these feelings. In the months since Matt’s death, his relationship with his father has deteriorated to the point they barely speak. After a vague but troubling conversation with his best friend Alex, Reece decides to take his advice and tries to connect with his father by joining the junior cadet program at fire department where his father works as a volunteer fire fighter. While their interactions remain fraught with tension, the rest of the cadets pull together to help Reece succeed in the program.
Reece does not let the team’s initial dislike of him or his father’s derisive attitude intimidate him and he eventually thrives once he makes progress with the physical and intellectual demands of the program. While he is hoping to improve his relationship with his father by joining the cadet program, he is truly surprised by the camaraderie he finds with his fellow team members. He is also stunned to discover he truly enjoys the fire fighter training. As he gains more confidence and his dad’s grudging respect, Reece’s objectives for joining the training begin to evolve. He also begins making progress with dealing with his guilt and grief but his ongoing struggles with his dad continue to be a stumbling block.
Amanda is a fellow cadet whose home life is tenuous since she in the foster care system. She is finally with a foster family that she likes and she is not willing to do anything to jeopardize her current placement. She adheres to her foster family’s strict rules and although she cares deeply for her foster brother, she tries to remain emotionally distant from him and her foster parents. Despite her initial animosity toward Reece, Amanda is fully invested in making sure he succeeds in the cadet program and she easily rallies the rest of the squad into helping him. When Amanda’s feelings toward Reece deepen beyond friendship, their relationship becomes a frustrating push/pull since she is determined to protect both her heart and her living arrangements.
The novel is written in dual, first person perspective and the chapters alternate between Reece and Amanda’s points of view. This technique works well for the story and the character’s voices are quite distinct. While Reece’s story is the most compelling, it is helpful to know the reasons behind some of Amanda’s decisions.
Nothing Left to Burn is a fascinating blend of family issues, romance and a hint of suspense. The plot is unique and Patty Blount’s meticulous research brings the fire fighting aspect of the storyline vibrantly to life. The romance between Amanda and Reece is the weakest part of the plot due to the “instalove” feel to their relationship. The suspense element is interesting but rather easy to solve. Neither of these story arcs lessen the overall enjoyment of the novel and I have absolutely no qualms about recommending Nothing Left to Burn to anyone who enjoys reading contemporary young adult novels.