In this generation, people seem caught up in the importance of being and staying beautiful. As a result, many novels targeted towards adolescents touch upon the theme of beauty and how it is an insignificant, surface level image. Perhaps too many stories include revelations about inner-beauty to the point that the subject matter becomes old and dull. When reading one of those books, it is always interesting to see if the author follows the typical pattern or brings something more than cliché ideas to the table.
Unfortunately, “Burning Blue,” by Paul Griffin, carries the same, overused theme. However, despite this, it is still a decent, fun read that is just right for teens partial to mysteries.
Nicole Castro is, in every way, perfect. She is a star athlete, a smart student, and a kind-hearted person. Above all, she is beautiful. But when battery acid is thrown into her face at school, the whole world holds their breath, waiting to see if the beauty queen can be saved. Nicole lives, but she is left brutally scarred on the entire left side of her face. Others have a tough time accepting her as they so used to seeing the flawless girl she once was. Everyone she knows begins to drift away from her-except for Jay Nazzaro.
Known as the kid who had an embarrassing seizure in the middle of the high school pep rally during his freshman year, Jay is used to being bullied and talked about behind his back. He meets Nicole during her sessions with the school psychologist and befriends her when her other peers walk away. The two make an odd pair-an ex-beauty queen with half her face wrapped in gauze, and an unpopular computer hacker with a father who can hardly provide for his son.
As Jay spends more and more time with Nicole, he realizes how much his friend has suffered. He takes it upon himself to figure out who Nicole’s attacker was and the motive for burning her-something the local police have not been able to solve. Teaming up with a handful of other friends, Jay spends late nights investigating potential suspects by breaking down firewalls and security procedures. When he does uncover the attacker, he is absolutely shocked and finds himself in more danger than he imagines.
The book is written primarily in the perspective of Jay, but includes a handful of Nicole’s diary entries, which gives readers some hint of what goes on in her head. Jay is an amusing character with his snarky, witty comments and his loyalty as a friend to Nicole is heartwarming. However, since he hacks computers, his ability to access information so handily is slightly bothersome. There is not a whole lot of digging-around and searching as the data always ends up conveniently in Jay’s hands.
Yet, despite this and the aforementioned hackneyed theme of beauty being only skin deep, “Burning Blue” is still a strong, interesting mystery with a thrilling amount of suspense. In addition to beauty, Griffin does a fine job touching upon the important ideas of coping, love, family, and friendship. The raw realism of the situation Nicole strives to overcome and the startling, unexpected outcome makes this mystery book relatively unique from others.
Katie Tsui is freshman attending Darien High School. She enjoys reading and am always looking forward to new book recommendations from friends. She likes to travel, paint, and play the piano.