3 out of 4 stars
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Burn Zones written by author Jorge P. Newbery is a riveting autobiographical riches-to-rags narrative about a young boy with the mind of an entrepreneur making his first dollar delivering newspapers. We are taken through his life from a hardworking young boy delivering newspapers and selling ice cream to a wealthy self-taught businessman whose entire world is flipped upside down due to one fateful natural disaster. Newbery takes us on a tour of his life, telling the story of how he slowly built up his fortune and then tragically lost everything with no warning.
Burn Zones, which are defined as short periods of time requiring extraordinary effort, is the perfect metaphor for the way life truly can be, showcasing the ups and downs anyone could experience. Newbery takes us through his first burn zone, when as a young boy he dealt with particularly stormy afternoons and evenings while he still faithfully delivered each and every newspaper properly and on time. He pushed himself to work hard and to scrimp and save even as a boy, but was finally vindicated in his frugal lifestyle when he was able to use over a decade's worth of savings to purchase his first apartment buildings and grow his wealth. His life started to feel free of burn zones until one natural disaster turned his life upside down costing him millions. While motivational in nature, it shows the ugly side of business and that no one is invincible or safe from unforeseen circumstances.
I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the first half with Newbery painting stories of his life in a way you could easily relate and feel like you had really been there. It was surprising and enjoyable to read about a young man's decision to create a record company that led him to a fun, creative path into punk culture. I did however find disappointment towards the end where things seemed to slow down and drag on after how fast and easy to keep reading it had been at the start. While Newbery is excellent with his descriptions and storytelling, I found some of the long descriptive moments to simply be filler rather than advancing the story.
This autobiographical novel touches on several important economics issues of our time making it more geared towards adults, but would also be fitting for young adults on the cusp of adulthood. It serves as a cautionary yet motivating story taking you through the ups and downs of Newbery's life and providing inspiration for the everyday reader to make it through their own personal burn zones.
Overall, I would rate Burn Zones as a 3 out of 4 due to its optimistic message about endurance, success, and overcoming hardships and its ability to initially captivate the reader. Where it's lacking a full 4 star rating comes in at the slower moments and extended descriptions that occasionally took me out of the story. I recommend this book to anyone having a hard time in life that may need a little extra motivation.
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