2 out of 4 stars
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The Fire He Started by Sarah Connor is classified as a young adult novel. However, there's no way I can, in good conscience, recommend this to any teenager. The themes are too heavy, and the book is too dark.
Terra is a high school student who seems to have everything. A loving family. Great friends. Good grades. A cute, jock boyfriend. It isn't long into their relationship, though, before she starts seeing a different side of him; he's controlling and has quite the temper. She's determined to get away from him. He's determined that if he can't have her, no one can. He ruins everything. Until she meets three gentlemen that could change everything. But, who are they really? What secrets are they hiding? Is she really safe this time?
The book entices you from the beginning. It draws you into its web, entangling you with its mystery. The focus is on the characters, and you want to know why they are the way they are. I love a book that gets me involved from the beginning. Sadly, it wasn't long before I wanted to quit the novel altogether. One reason (among many) was the graphic descriptions of violence that were enough to make my stomach churn.
This is, also, the gloomiest, most depressing book I've read in quite a while. There are no lighter moments to break up the heaviness of the themes. These are themes such as controlling relationships, sexual abuse, and murder. So many bad things happen to Terra that you wonder how the story could ever be true. I'm not doubting that it can happen, but there is no moral to the story. There aren't any redeeming qualities. It's nothing I want to read about in its current form, and I can only see it bringing more sadness and turmoil to an age group that already has too much to deal with.
Furthermore, the plot is oversimplified, as Terra spends almost the whole of the novel avoiding her ex-boyfriend. While there are a few suggestions of more action, nothing is explicit, at least in this first novel. Even being in the young adult genre, I feel there should have been more varied conflict, which would have moved the story along at a faster pace. As it is, I didn't feel we would ever break out of the cycle of Erick finding Terra only for her to flee again.
What's more, this book ends in a cliffhanger. All the answers you are seeking are left unanswered. There is some foreshadowing, but it isn't enough to piece together the mysteries. I, for one, am not going to stick around for the second book to find out what they are, either.
Lastly, the book needs another round of editing. Apostrophes are often used where they are not needed, but they aren't used where they are needed. Words are either missing or added where they don't need to be. Verbs are often not in agreement with the subject. The errors occur throughout the novel and are often distracting.
This book is extremely difficult to rate. The writing style itself isn't bad; the errors are easily fixable with a good proofreader, but it doesn't deserve a perfect rating, either. In addition, the plot is too simplistic. The despair in the novel is overwhelming as well. For these reasons, I rate The Fire He Started 2 out of 4 stars. As I stated before, I do not recommend this for its intended audience. However, I could see this being enjoyed by adults that enjoy more of a sadistic horror story. Though the plot is dissimilar, it reminds me of the Saw movie franchise. At any rate, be forewarned; this is not a story for the faint of heart.
The Fire He Started
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