An incredible and true story of self-destruction and recovery, about a 14-year-old boy who sets himself on fire and the year that follows-a book for adults, adolescents, teacher, and professionals that spotlights teenage despair and suicide like no other.
"Gr. 8-12. On the sixteenth page of this incisive memoir, eighth-grader Brent Runyon drenches his bathrobe with gasoline and (Should I do it? Yes. ) sets himself on fire. The burns cover 85 percent of his body and require six months of painful skin grafts and equally invasive mental-health rehabilitation. From the beginning, readers are immersed in the mind of 14-year-old Brent as he struggles to heal body and mind, his experiences given devastating immediacy in a first-person, present-tense voice that judders from uncensored teenage attitude and poignant anxiety (he worries about getting hard-ons during physical therapy) to little-boy sweetness. And throughout is anguish over his suicide attempt and its impact on his family: I have this guilt feeling all over me, like oil on one of those birds in Alaska. Runyon has, perhaps, written the defining book of a new genre, one that gazes as unflinchingly at boys on the emotional edge as Zibby O'Neal's The Language of Goldfish (1980) and Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak (1999) do at girls. Some excruciatingly painful moments notwithstanding, this can and should be read by young adults, as much for its literary merit as for its authentic perspective on what it means to attempt suicide, and, despite the resulting scars, be unable to remember why. --Jennifer Mattson Copyright 2004 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Engrossing from first page to last, this book based on Runyon's own adolescent experiences draws readers into the world of an eighth-grader whose life is irrevocably changed the day he deliberately sets himself on fire. Brent, after narrowly escaping death, wakes up in a hospital with 85% of his body severely burned and begins a slow, arduous path to recovery. Rather than analyzing reasons the patient wanted to kill himself, the first-person narrative remains focused on the immediate challenge of survival, incorporating meticulous details of Brent's day-to-day ordeals in the hospital and later in a rehabilitation center. Time, at first, is measured by Brent's fluctuating levels of discomfort and comfort, ranging from the excruciating pain of having bandages removed to the sheer bliss of tasting ice cream for the first time in several weeks. And his repentant apologies to his parents and to Craig, his brother, who discovers Brent immediately after the incident, are wrenching in their honesty ("I hope Craig can love me again"). When his wounds begin to heal, Brent's thoughts turn from the present to the future as he nervously makes plans to return home and re-enter society. Despite its dark subject matter, this powerful chronicle of Brent's journey to heal expresses hope, celebrates life and provides an opportunity to slip inside the skin of a survivor with a unique perspective. Ages 14-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved