I decided to do these two books as "mini"-reviews because I don't have anything good to say about either book and you know that old saying — If you can't say anything nice... Well, I've never been very good at not saying anything at all...
Brooklyn Burning by Steve Brezenoff is, in my opinion, a book that tried too hard. It wanted to be this big grand and mysterious book but instead managed only to be a rather dull and vague detail-less story that bored me.
Kid lives in Brooklyn and has spent the last year or so on the streets because Dad decided he didn't want to deal with Kid's issues anymore (specifically sexual questioning) and kicked Kid out. But we don't know any specifics about Kid. Not real name, not even gender. We do know that Kid falls for a musician that's more than a little rough around the edges (heavily into hard drugs). But something happened (a mystery, possibly involving fire) and the musician is always referred to in the past tense and now Kid develops a new love interest. (Also blurry around gender lines).
I appreciate what Steve is trying to do here. It is an interesting idea — making a genderless novel and leaving details almost completely out of the way. But instead of being a story that pushes boundaries and makes you think, it was instead, for me, boring and pointless. I didn't care about a single character in the story. I didn't really know anything about them, so what was there to care about?! A lot of the story is written in also 2nd person, which I've read and enjoyed before, but it made this book feel even weirder than it already was. I have to have a sense of character for a 2nd person narrative to work. I also need a sense of and connection to the characters for a romance to be effective and interesting and something that I care about. But Steve didn't give me that.
This probably sounds rude, but I felt like this was a book full of its own cleverness and importance. You know people like that, right? Who are always walking around "saying" — Look at me!! Look at how funny I am or how clever and smart!- and really, rather than thinking them funny or clever or smart, all you can think is — Oh my gosh, shut up! — or -Seriously, who invited you?! This was a book trying so hard to be mysterious and murky that it completely missed its mark and landed in the realm of vague and uneventful.
It's a book that left me with a feeling of, Oh. That's all then? and I am pretty much positive that unless someone else brings it up, I will never think about this book again. BUT I will say that this is a polarizing book. All of the reviews I've seen are either like mine, or are completely enamored by and in love with this book. So if it's something you think you would like, might as well give it a try!
Lie by Caroline Bock was, unfortunately, even worse for me.
It is a book that should have been important and powerful and gut wrenching and soul hurting and empowering. It's about the repercussions of a vicious hate crime in a small town ending with the victim in critical condition and the boys under investigation. The MC's boyfriend is the main suspect (and if I remember right, is in custody throughout the book) and she saw the crime but has been lying to the police, because her boyfriend and best friend asked/told her too, and Jimmy is a good person who loves her and needs her support.
But, Jimmy is not a good person. I was expecting this to be a book that explores grey areas and tries to explain how good/normal kids can become involved in vicious crimes. But nope. Jimmy is scum. Seriously. And very possibly mentally unstable. But then again, the notes I wrote to myself upon finishing this book say that I felt that every single character was emotionally and mentally unbalanced. And awful. Lisa Marie is the worst best friend in the history of human beings and I hated her. ALL the way. Skylar is also a pretty weak character, seemingly incapable of making any decisions for herself or seeing people as they really are, and I'm not going to say anymore than that because I've tried to rewrite it three times and I keep sounding really, really mean.
What I think would have made this novel better is development. Rather than really developing the characters, Bock just gave them each their own chance to 'talk' and there were a lot of narrators in this book (like 9, I think). But having them speak doesn't necessarily give them depth and it doesn't do anything to make me relate to or believe them. Part of my problem is also that I never, not once thought that Skylar's decision was hard. Not once. You know pretty early on what she witnessed, although more details do come out as the book progresses and for me, that choice is black and white.
I wanted to like this one. Really, I did. But I just couldn't do it and I can't recommend it.
*Disclaimer: Both of these books were electronic ARCs received via Netgalley.