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Tillmon County Fire [Kindle Edition]

Pamela Ehrenberg
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In tiny Tillmon County, where it seems like nothing ever happens, a mysterious fire rocks the lives of the teenagers who live there. Who set the fire that night, and more importantly, who owns the reasons behind it? / As the story unfolds, the lines between truth and fiction, motive and happenstance, guilt and innocence blur. This novel-in-stories is told sequentially in the voices of its disparate cast of characters: a frustrated adoptee, a gay teenager, a big-city kid who is new in town and wishes he were back in Manhattan, a pregnant store clerk, and a boy with autism who is more at the center of events than he imagines. / Pamela Ehrenberg's gift for compelling storytelling makes this a memorable and moving work of fiction for teenage readers.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ehrenberg’s latest is a challenging pastiche of stories, each told from a different teenager’s point of view, that chronicle the lead-up to and fallout from an arson incident in a small Appalachian community. With the very first story, readers will think they have it figured out: Aiden, a religious zealot in training, seems to bear all the marks of a potential sociopath. But everything in Tillmon County—and by extension, the world, Ehrenberg seems to suggest—is more complicated. The clues come out as characters cross paths, and it soon becomes clear that the arson has something to do with Rob, a new kid in town who happens to be gay; Albert, a “slow” kid who devotedly follows his twin brother; and Lacey, a pregnant store clerk who sells some lighter fluid. Using distinctive voices (and fonts) for each troubled teen, Ehrenberg’s gambit never seems like a gimmick—each of her characters lives and breathes, and though their own tangents may test the patience of some readers, it is precisely these qualities that make their sum total so gripping. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus


"Cleverly plotted and well-crafted story of abuse and vengeance . . . ."  The vividly drawn setting, almost a character in itself, embraces an important message all readers need to hear. --School Library Journal (April 2009)

"an introspective look at truth and consequences in small-town America" --Kirkus Review (March 2009)

"a powerful novel that is part mystery, part coming-of-age tale and wholly compelling" --Washington Parent (June 2009)

Product Details

  • File Size: 1143 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing; Library Binding edition (May 21, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0032UX6GA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,458,407 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Impressive, Gripping Teen Page Turner July 5, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
With Tillmon County Fire, author Pamela Ehrenberg has created an "Our Town" for teens. Like Ethan Suspended, Ehrenberg's debut novel, Tillmon deals with issues universal to young adults everywhere. And she accomplishes this difficult task visually,through font and typeface and with her usual wit and insight.

Each chapter of the book is narrated by a different teen who is in the process of trying to figure out the world and his or her place in it. Like Roshomon,their intersecting stories help to uncover who was responsible for a devastating fire which culminates in a trial. Is it Rob, the new kid in town who happens to be gay? Or is it Albert,the slow twin, or the pregnant cashier in the hardware store? Or is it Amelia, the only Chinese American in Tillmon County, or is it Cait, a bright girl determined to go to college and flee Tillmon for good?

Ehrenberg has created real flesh and blood characters devoid of melodrama. She channels each teen and it is for this reason that Tillmon County Fire is an impressive, gripping and relentless page turner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Teen Read June 5, 2009
It seems like fiction written specifically for teens (a relatively recent innovation in the history of literature) can all too easily be sorted into three categories: trashy junk reading (e.g. Gossip Girl and its many imitators), contemporary issue-based educational reading (books whose plots revolve around "after-school special" issues such as teen pregnancy, drugs, violence, being gay, poverty, race, etc.), and more traditional escapist fare (books about vampire clans, the future, historicals, etc.). I have to admit that those few teen-targeted books I've enjoyed in recent years tend to fall into that third camp, probably because these are the ones where the authors appear to be more committed to telling an engaging story than writing to some perceived market need.

Fortunately, while this book flirts with issues, like Ehrenberg's solid debut (Ethan, Suspended), it never surrenders to them, and thus remains an engaging read whose story never veers into the melodramatic, and whose characters feel like real teenagers. This may be due to author's Americorps experience, which exposed her to some of the cultural and economic struggles of small communities such as the fictional county this story is set in. Each chapter of the book is narrated by a different kid, all of whom are engaged in that essential American teenage act of trying to figure out who they are. Their combined stories trace the buildup to an act of arson directed at a gay character, and the arson's aftermath.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, loved it! October 5, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's been a while since I tore through a book this quickly, but the varying viewpoints and constant twists kept me wanting to find out what happened next. I actually felt like I was listening to teenagers talk (more Judy Blume than The Breakfast Club) and sometimes forgot that I was reading a book by an adult. Ehrenberg conveyed the kids' emotions without beating us over the head with her beliefs.

It was amazing to see both how much and how little goes on in small-town America and puts a number of social conflicts in perspective. I'd definitely recommend the book.

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1.0 out of 5 stars Prejdiced Stereotypes January 21, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Though it has a compelling narrative, I cannot put this book in the library of our church. It stereotypes an adolescent homosexual boy as being very interested in clothes and a listener to National Public Radio.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This author is one to watch August 27, 2012
By Meaghan
This is a very good sophomore effort by author Pamela Ehrenberg, describing the story of an arson on a house in a remote Appalachian town, and how it affected the rest of the community. Although there were many narrators, each had a distinct voice and I had no trouble keeping track of them. I thought the voice and character of Albert, a teenager with high-functioning autism, was particularly well done. (I've got Asperger's Syndrome myself.) The author also made excellent use of the rural West Virginia setting -- so many YA books are set in a Generic Suburb Near You.

This is the first of Ehrenberg's books I've read, but her second published novel. I will keep an eye out for her other one and hope it will be as good as this one.
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More About the Author

Pamela Ehrenberg grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and now lives in Washington, D.C., with her two young children. She loves to hear from readers and to visit schools and libraries everywhere via Skype technology. For more information, visit her website at


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