4 out of 4 stars
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Many nonfiction novels have been written by people who have risen to the top from nothing, or who have conquered multiple challenges to achieve the success they are at today. Even with a different character, a normal memoir commonly focuses on the uprising tale and the business tactics the author used to gain his success. Instead of this traditional up from nothing tale, Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands focuses on a young man who rose to the top through hard work and determination, and only lost everything later in life. Through Jorge Newbery´s novel, readers are given a simple and emotional look at the author's life and his experiences. The honest and open retelling is driven through Newbery´s humor and wit as he retells some of his remarkable results and excruciating failures. Throughout it all, a message prevails: always persevere and try to succeed in your goals, and even if they fail, keep moving forward.
The novel begins with the young life of Jorge Newbery, a seven-year-old Hispanic child who is driven by an urge for money and success. The book continues to follow the tales of Newbery as he grows into a young entrepreneur, evolving from paperboy to ice cream dealer, and then to a record starter. By the age of 16, Newbery had advanced in academics so much that he was able to get out of school and focus full time on records and his career. This driven attitude continued to carry Newbery through life as he advanced as a professional cyclist and an extremely successful real estate agent, to the point where he was buying multiple struggling building complexes before the age of thirty. Unfortunately, a natural disaster struck one of his complexes, leading him to accumulate millions of dollars in debt to try and fix it. Even after this financial and emotional defeat, Jorge continued to preach the message of perseverance and grew to accept his financial defeat.
What struck me as the most brilliant aspect of the novel was the absolute emotion and determination Newbery conveyed through his writing. In every chapter, there was a new emotion or feeling portrayed blatantly in Newbery´s words or tone. Whether it was humor through his childhood antics, fear after the storm that threatened his complex, or pride and joy when he saw how his repair efforts were helping the community, every emotion is clearly shown for the readers to feel alongside Newbery. Even the negative aspects, including Newbery´s depression and anger at his failures, were made clear through Newbery´s word choice; in short, nothing was hidden from the reader. This level of emotion makes the moments of the author's ´burn zones´ that much more intense, and it makes the story much more interesting than traditional memoirs or retellings.
The formatting style also impressed me within the novel. Each chapter was sectioned off well, but inside each chapter were also smaller sections that gave a basic summary or insight into the details of that section. It made it so that the book flowed extremely well, and the reader would never get lost in the details. It was also interesting of Newbery to include multiple pictures throughout the novel in accordance with the subject. While many authors may have included a section of photos in the middle of the novel, Newbery chose to include them as the novel progressed. This unique choice added a nice visual to the novel that is not commonly found in other nonfiction works. I found it extremely intriguing to follow along with the visuals and the story at the same time, and it definitely helped the flow of the book.
I must say I found no flaws within this novel. Of all the nonfiction novels I have read in my time, this is the most incredible one I have seen. The simple tone and great organization make this novel easy to read, but the book still carries a great amount of depth and emotion that many stories simply fail to convey. The book is also exceptionally well-edited and contained no noticeable mistakes. Due to all of the reasons above, I rate this novel 4 out of 4 stars. Since there are no explicit scenes and generally no profane language outside of a few racially derogative terms, I would recommend this novel to any audience, but specifically to anyone looking for an uplifting story or who needs a word of advice about not giving up and getting through their own ´burn zones´.
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