4 out of 4 stars
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Burn Zones by Jorge P. Newbery is a nonfiction book about the author’s own life. Newbery writes about his own experiences in the real estate and debt businesses, including the many hurdles he first has to overcome when he is young. These hurdles are the titular “burn zones,” or moments of intense pressure that can make or break your success. Newbery uses his time as a competitive cycler in his youth as a metaphor for the challenges he faces later in life. Everyone experiences their own burn zones, and we all must either rise to meet the challenge or let an opportunity pass us by.
Newbery’s life is one that is truly unique. Instead of the typical pastimes a child might seek out, Newbery’s youth is spent pursuing avenues that help him raise money and teach him valuable lessons about running his own business. Newbery is an entrepreneur from the very beginning. It is very entertaining to read about Newbery’s early challenges passing out newspapers and trying to get ice cream home before it melts. These early sections show both how different Newbery is in terms of his drive to work and also how a lack of motivation is the only thing stopping anyone from carving their own path.
As Newbery grows older, the magnitude of his burn zones increases as well. Rather than wasting a few dozen dollars on some melted ice cream, Newbery goes millions of dollars into debt as a result of a poor investment and pushback from the city. It is easy to sympathize with Newbery’s plight even if the scale of the loss is something most of us have never experienced. Anyone who has gone into extreme debt understands the feelings of hopelessness and despair that occur after such an experience. When Newbery is eventually able to overcome his debt and recoup some of his losses, it is uplifting to experience his comeback alongside him.
The one issue I have with the book is that a large portion of it simply summarizes the events of the author’s life without much commentary. It would have been nice to hear Newbery explain what he learned from each of his life experiences rather than restricting the majority of the analysis to the end of the book. Some sections seem to be a little pointless in the grand scheme of the book, such as the author going into detail about each property he managed. While I am sure these properties each imparted their own unique lessons, they tend to blur together for the average reader. Newbery’s hindsight would have been appreciated throughout the book to explain the importance of each property he recounts in detail. Still, there is a lot that the reader can glean from the events on their own, so this is only a minor concern.
The book is more suitable for older readers, as younger readers may not find much to sustain their interest. However, there is a great deal to enjoy in Burn Zones for adults who have experienced similar difficulties with debt and are looking for an inspiring story about persevering through difficulties. The book is well edited with very few errors to distract the reader. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. Newbery knows how to craft a compelling narrative out of his own life story that will encourage readers to face the burn zones in their own lives with confidence.
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