3 out of 4 stars
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Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands is a tale of how one should live their life. It’s the story of a man who works hard to achieve his goals. Nothing is handed to him. He doesn’t jump on social bandwagons like the notion that college is the only way to succeed in life. Instead, he researches topics that interest him and makes his own informed decisions on how to progress forward. Jorge P. Newbery is also a man with a lot of heart. He may talk a lot about saving money and gaining a profit, but he isn’t someone who dresses in a fancy suit for appearances while determining your value based on how much money you have to bring to the table. No, his story is that of an underdog that never loses sight of where he came from.
I feel this book is written for everyone. Parts of it strike me as a warning to the young not to ignore every little lesson that experienced adults have to offer. Jorge was constantly searching for such advice as he sought to understand the way the world works, and it served him well. Of course, the main message of the book is for people, especially older people, that may be dealing with a situation that seems impossible to come out on top while the stakes are at their highest. These situations are burn zones and they define how far you can climb up the ladder of life. One who is too afraid to fall from a great height won’t be able to get as far up as Jorge. The one issue that would make this book an unsuitable read for children are about five occurrences of profanity. These occurrences appear like a relative that occasionally lets out a few inappropriate words over the holidays, despite children being present.
I enjoyed most of the pacing in this book. Jorge’s constant goal in his autobiography is to keep moving up in life. He tells us the importance and the significance of what he’s doing. And there are fun details like the desire to move up from “Jorgie” to the more distinguished “Jorge” in his father’s eyes. The story runs pretty quickly. It made me feel as if I was Jorge and my whole life was flashing before my eyes, but Jorge was still good at providing enough details that I never felt anything significant was skipped over. Then there were occasionally small moments of dialogue where we got to see more vivid details for special moments.
However, there were also elements of this work that were less than perfect. I feel that his use of italicized thoughts inside dialogue quotes doesn’t work well, even if Jorge was imagining the another person saying these words in such a moment. It is especially odd to see dialogue and then another set of quotes after the initial dialogue to show imagined speech. In my experience, thoughts are best presented as italicized text without the quotation marks. Towards the end, I also found that the book started to get more technical as Jorge got into more complex businesses. Occasionally, those details made the story drag a little.
Overall, Jorge P. Newbery’s story is one where it’s easy to connect with the character. From the first moment I picked it up, I was glued to its pages. It looks exceptionally well edited. I didn’t catch any grammatical errors in it. However, one thing tipped the balance as I hone in to give a final rating. There was a scene where Jorge writes the hardest letter of his life, and it recaps events that I thought we had moved passed already, to a point where there were a few pages where I felt like I was rereading a chapter that I had already passed. I understand Jorge was reflecting on the past here, but I didn’t feel it was treading enough new ground in this one place to justify the summary of past events. Thus, I hereby award this book 3 out of 4 stars.
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