4 out of 4 stars
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Burn Zones by Jorge Newbery is a story of overcoming obstacles. From the time he was seven, Newbery has been an entrepreneur. He started out with one paper route, which he then turned into two--riding his bike with papers on he back and on his front. Newbery tells of his success selling ice cream from an ice cream tricycle, and then dropping out of high school to sell records. Not deterred by challenges, he is always one to step up to the game.
After selling records, he takes on competitive biking. This is where the title Burn Zones comes from. Whether it is an uphill or heavy winds, or an unexpected obstacle, when things get difficult, it is termed a "burn zone." I loved how Newbery carried this metaphor through the whole book. Newbery throws himself completely into the world of competitive cycling and lives through his own share of failures and triumphs.
The really fascinating part of the story comes when Newbery leaves biking behind and enters the world of real-estate. It is inspiring to follow along as he takes on monumental risks --buying apartments in bad parts of town that have bad reputations--and sets about to do what no one else could do-- renovate, change and make it a safe community. He tackles the situation the same way he did everything else. He goes all in. It is fascinating to see someone go into one of those cities and actually make a difference.
With the success he begins to see in renovating apartments and communities, Newbery continues to invest his money in more apartment buildings. The biggest one--Woodland Meadows--has over 4,000 apartments. At first everything is going his way. He moves into one of the apartments (I love his simple life-style) and throws his whole being into making Woodland Meadows a better place. He hires people with felonies to work on ground crews, he has a neighborhood patrol that works better than the police. He has the beginnings of not only growth in real-estate and profit, but in the community and building up people who have never had the chance before. But with a terrible ice-storm, extensive damage, tricky insurance claims, and few bad blows from the city all of Newbery's efforts implode and leave him millions of dollars in debt. In this burn zone, Newbery once again doesn't give up.
I loved this book and am giving it a rating of 4 out of 4 stars . There were only very minor errors (an extra hyphen and a missed comma) and I believe the book was professionally edited. What I liked best about the book was the way Newbery captures himself as a character. He is an extremely intense person and we get to know him well through his story. The prose is clean and simple and easy to read. There are few instances of profanity. The first being the word, "a-hole" on page 34, second paragraph and is followed closely by the "F-word". The other instances are him quoting a song. There is one chapter where his co-workers trick him into meeting at a strip joint. He describes the scenario but doesn't do anything improper himself--in fact looks down on it. The only thing I didn't like about the book was the fact that Newbery often shares his opinions--political and social--and while they are valid opinions I felt like sometimes they were tangential to the story.
This is a great book for any who have gone through a burn zone themselves. I feel like it would be better appreciated by adults because I don't think the parts about real-estate and debt would be as interesting to a teenage audience. Fascinating non-fiction read. I would definitely recommend it.
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