Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

burn baby burnWhile violence runs rampant throughout New York, a teenage girl faces danger within her own home.

Nora Lopez is seventeen during the infamous New York summer of 1977, when the city is besieged by arson, a massive blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam who shoots young women on the streets. Nora’s family life isn’t going so well either: her bullying brother, Hector, is growing more threatening by the day, her mother is helpless and falling behind on the rent, and her father calls only on holidays. All Nora wants is to turn eighteen and be on her own. And while there is a cute new guy who started working with her at the deli, is dating even worth the risk when the killer likes picking off couples who stay out too late?

OMG. I know Meg Medina books are pretty much synonymous with BA heroines, but she OUTDID herself in Burn Baby Burn. This book is a true tour de force – it’s fast-paced, action-packed, and set in a period of New York history that is practically begging to be written about more often. The summer of 1977 was a bleak one.There’s was a serial killer and an arsonist on the loose, a city-wide blackout that leads to violent rioting, and a sense of suspense pooling about in the very air. And Meg Medina captures it all with grace and verve that many other writers would have trouble accomplishing.

Nora is a headstrong and sassy protagonist, with plenty of observational prowess and an upbringing that makes it hard for her to know what to do when confronted with hard truths. Her mom struggles as a single parent while her dad is living large in Manhattan proper with his new family, and her little brother has a serious mean streak that is disturbing to witness. What’s more disturbing, however, is the dedicated tunnel-vision their mother uses in order to ignore Hector’s misdoings. Their family dynamic is a thriller in its own right,

Then, of course, there’s everything else going on around them – the arsons, the rioting, and, of course, the serial killer Son of Sam, who is running around shooting random young couples while they’re out on dates. Nora finds herself in the thick of it all as she begins to fall for the handsome new boy at her job, and she’s got a front row seat not only to the dangerous goings-on of that summer, but also to the exciting new world of the Feminist movement.

I thought this novel progressed beautifully – the further along I read the harder it was for me to put it down, even for a minute. I ended up devouring the second half in the middle of the night, and by the time I finished I was so riled up that I couldn’t sleep for a while. Instead, I did some research into the actual historical events depicted within it, and then finally drifted off with a head full of facts. It was beyond pleasant.

I’m a big fan of Medina’s other books, but her first true YA novel is by far my favorite. You cannot beat the intense air of this story, which makes it the perfect read to get you out of a winter reading slump and ready for spring.

Rating: 4.7/5 stars 

Did you guys read Burn Baby Burn? What’d you think? Comment below. Give me a historical YA rec while you’re at it! 🙂

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