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  • ★★★★★-5

Review: The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes (Spoiler-Free)

I am thinking about the first words of another book. It was a pleasure to burn. More than anything, it was a pleasure to live. I am utterly SHOCKED that no one talks about this book!!! Please, please go out and read it! It's one of the most unique YA books I've ever read, and I mean this in every possible way. First of all, it is not at all what I was expecting it to be. I typically don't read very much of the synopses of thrillers because I don't want to spoil myself, so my expectations going into this book were purely based on the cover. I thought it was going to be a standard contemporary YA thriller about an arsonist. I couldn't be more wrong. Not only is this book actually historical fiction for much of it, but it definitely has a much heavier focus on the characters than I was expecting. Don't get me wrong though, the plot is still incredibly engaging; I couldn't stop reading. However, the characters here are what really sold it to me. There are three POVs in this book, and they come from some of the most unique perspectives I've ever read from. Not only are they so unique, but they are so well executed. I was not once confused by which perspective I was reading from, that's how consistent each voice was. 1. Molly- She is the weird girl at school. No, not the type A "I'm not like other girls" protagonist, I mean the weird girl. Like, she's called "Molly Milk Pee Mavity" for purposely peeing in the middle of the classroom in 7th grade. She is the girl with no friends. Legitimately zero. It was so interesting to get to see what goes on inside her head and why she acts the way she does. What troubles her, what she yearns for, what she doesn't understand- all of it. 2. Pepper- A boy from Kuwait who is officially not going to graduate. Again, this is another character that I never expected to read from. His voice was also incredibly well-done, from minor slips of English proficiency, to the control of his chapters. They were written in essay form, each with a central theme, and they each tied into his account of the story seamlessly. 3. Ava- A girl trapped in East Berlin under the GDR and Stasi regime during the Cold War. To me, Ava was the most compelling character because through her account, a resilient and unbreakable woman was unveiled. I could go on and on about how having unique structure for each POV enhanced the reading experience just as much as each unique voice, but I think that at this point you should just read the book for yourself to experience it. Oddly enough, this book also had a lot of relevance to stuff going on in the world today. It touches on themes of rebellion and doing what it takes to cause a regime to crumble. Despite being written in 2017, and being about a completely different country, its commentary completely echoes the arguments that many are making surrounding the police in America today. I haven't really touched the plot yet, but that's because that too is something you should just dive into on your own. This book is a whirlwind of so much that I love in literature, and I am still amazed that I found it in a book that has been sitting on my shelf for years, never having been opened. I'm so glad that I gave this random book a try, and it really reminds me that every book has the power to surprise you. Seriously, give this one a try. For Ava Dreyman (even if you don't know her quite yet).

Song I was reminded of while reading: Say Something

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