A native Mississippian, Heath Gibson, discovered the joy of children’s literature as an adult. Since falling in love with the genre, he has used the unique landscape, people, and voices of the South to fuel his writing. He holds an MFA in children’s literature from Hollins University, a bachelor’s degree in communication from Mississippi State University, and a degree in English education from the University of Southern Mississippi. Currently, Gibson teaches English at a high school in Atlanta. He is the author of Gigged and Burn, both published by Flux. Visit him online at HeathGibson.com.
Burn offers us a unique look into a small town and a dysfunctional preacher's family. It held my attention from page one and touched on some sensitive social subjects. Gibson takes us into the heart of a small Alabama town and the mind of one young man who resides there.
The tale begins when we meet William "Wee-Wee" Tucker. He is a high school student and trained volunteer firefighter. As the son of the local Baptist preacher he appears to be an outstanding pillar of the community. As the author takes us into Wee-Wee's mind and introduces us to his family and friends, we quickly learn there are dark secrets here. This character driven novel, full of thought provoking messages sent me on an emotional ride as I tried to determine my feelings for this captivating tale.
Wee-Wee is a bright, dependable young man. Town folk would say he is polite and always does the right thing. He works at the local market, saved for his own car, respects his parents, attends church and protects his brother. After going to his first fire, he feels a rush. He has a crush on Mandy Pearman, but she sees him as her best bud. He wants to fix things around him, about him, and others and begins to look for ways to make things right. The Tucker family is complex. They are all covering up a secret about Tucker's Mom. Tucker's brother, Steven, is adorable and incredibly brave at times. He too has a secret and decides to be open about it. The town and his father might not be able to handle it. Tucker's Dad is always concerned about the family's image even at the cost to his family. I got chills when he said, "Remember who you are, son." My favorite character was Samantha; she is a new student and shakes things up. She is very comfortable about who she is, and what she stands for.Read more ›
I thought the cover for this was very arresting-dark with just a touch of fire that hints at the plot of this book. Once I read the synopsis though, I snorted a bit. Main character William's nickname is Wee-Wee due to his short stature. That is incredibly unfortunate for him. This lack of height also prevents him from a romantic relationship with his image-obsessed crush.
Happily height differential was not a problem in our relationship as I quickly clicked with William, protective brother to his coming out of the closet brother, dutiful son to his high expectations preacher father, quiet to his drunken mother, and loyal volunteer fire fighter. It is this last role that fuels the plot as Wee-Wee begins to see the cleansing power of fire; it wipes out the old and gives you a chance to start anew. Thus he begins setting fires, using his training to minimize their danger and to ensure no one is hurt. However the lies keep piling up until the shocking and (in my opinion, too) ambiguous ending.
After reading a couple of reviews, I was very unsure about this novel but I find William to be very sympathetic with well-written thought processes that explain exactly why he finds his arson streak to be justified. He's wrong, of course, but completely understandable. I really felt for him as he tried to fight the many wrongs he sees in his community as well as live up to expectations in his broken family.
Other great characters include an amazing teacher who is fired after an accident, Will's brother Steven who boldly steps out and owns his homosexuality despite the many bigoted reactions he receives, and new girl Samantha who also steps out and owns her actions, trying to make a better tomorrow.Read more ›
I have friends that are volunteer firefighters, so as soon as I saw the synopsis for this book, I was interested in reading it - I can relate to the sense of community that they help to build and foster and the admiration and respect that people have for those who volunteer to risk their own lives for others.
But although Burn is centered around a young volunteer firefighter, it is mostly an examination of small town mentalities, how people who are different from the 'norm' can struggle to find their place, and how families can keep big big secrets.
I don't quite know how I feel about William as a character - his composure was more than a little un-nerving, but it's pivotal to the storyline. I didn't really feel any empathy towards him, and in fact I found his brother to be a more interesting and likeable character - I wish there had been more of a focus on him. And although William's new friend, Samantha had some intriguing ideas and a different personality, again there was less of her than I wanted.
The plot of Burn is quite believable, although I did feel that William's father was built up to be far scarier than the reality, and his mother kind of just faded into the background, despite the problems that seemed to be centered around her.
Although this book played out pretty much the way I expected, it was an intriguing read, and there was a lot of potential to make this a realistic, dramatic storyline, if only some of the characters had been fleshed out a little more.