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Khanh the Killjoy

I like the burn!

Burn for Burn - Jenny Han, Siobhan Vivian
"This is Karma. I’m a bitch. Can you think of anyone who deserves a bitch slap?"
My phone buzzes again.
"If so, meet at Judy Blue Eyes, 2am. If not, sit back and enjoy the show."

*sheepishly hands over her "Get Out Of Jail Free" card*

Technically, I'm not supposed to like this book. There are no end to clichéd characters, there's not so much a love triangle as a love star or whatever shape there is with way too many pointy ends (my Geometry teacher would be so proud), because it seems like everyone's hooking up with everyone else. If you're a parent, this book is going make you want to home school your child for the rest of high school, if not their life.

But fuck it, I had a blast. This book was terrifically fun. Here's why I liked it, despite its flaws:

1. The setting: Northeastern US coastal island. For me, that's the equivalent of catnip
2. REVENGE, BITCHES! Because, really, who doesn't love a good tale of GETTING EVEN
3. No slut shaming:, there's rampant sex, but there's never slut shaming
4. Diversity: ok, fine, there's just one Asian main character, but that's one more than most books have! Thank you, Jenny Han!
5. A surprising amount of darkness: really, really wild teenagers. They hook up, they use drugs, they drink, they're horrible people---they're, erm, teenagers, with all that entails. This book deals with issues like date rape, underaged sex, bullying (in the true sense of the word), and suicide.
6. Who cares about a love triangle or whatever when I can't keep the hookups straight?!

It wasn't perfect by any means (and dude, what's with the paranormal thing at the end?!), but really, I had too much fun reading to care.

The Summary:

Today I told that girl in the bathroom that Reeve would get his, that karma’s a bitch. I meant it when I said it, but now I’m not so sure. I’m sick of waiting for karma. Karma can suck it.

It's been a long time since Mary has been back to Jar Island, her ancestral home. She had to leave years ago, due to certain...events. Mary was never a confident person, she's shy, she's socially awkward, but something happened a few years ago that broke her down. She had to leave the island. Now 17, Mary has chosen to return. Why? She hopes to catch the attention of a boy.

Will he recognize me, I wonder? Part of me hopes he doesn’t. But the other part, the part that left my family to come back, hopes he does. He has to. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Ah, but it's not what you'd expect. That "he?" It's a boy named Reeve. Is he a former lover? A crush? Hardly.

He...used to torture me when we were in seventh grade. He basically got everyone in our grade to hate me. He’s the reason my family moved away.

Kat is a tough girl, a loner, a girl who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Kat is big, bad, and bitchy. She smokes, she's a punk, she absolutely hates the rich townies and preppies at her school.

They make me want to barf, every last one of them. They get away with murder on this island. They just do what they want to do, and screw everyone and everything else.

But it wasn't always like this. Kat used to be one of the "in-crowd," best friends with the most popular girls in town. Her former best friend, Rennie now hates her guts, and spreads rumors about Kat whenever she gets the chance. Kat tolerates and ignores the rumors, until one day, she snaps.

I freaking spat in Rennie’s face. Pretty much the trashiest thing I could ever do. The lies Rennie’s been telling about me since freshman year, I just proved them true.

Because there's only so much a girl can take.

Lillia is a good student, a good daughter, a loving sister, the benevolent second queen bee in the school who holds a dark secret and shame. She is Rennie's best friend, a cheerleader. Lillia, Kat, and Rennie used to be a trio of best friends, until something tore them apart. Now Lillia is one of the most popular girls in school, and Rennie's sole best friend, but she knows too well what a bitch Rennie can be. But Lillia's got more to worry about than just the conniving Rennie; her innocent baby sister Nadia is entering the dark world of high school, and Lillia has failed to protect her from her two-faced childhood friend, Alex.

I never should have left her at that party. This is my fault just as much as it is Nadia’s. Maybe more. I’m her big sister. It’s my job to look out for her, to keep her safe.

Wonderful! Now we're all set up. The summer's over, the school year's just begin...and it blows so bad. Mary doesn't know Lillia and Kat. Lillia and Kat now barely talk to each other. They all meet, by chance, in the girl's bathroom. Two of the three are crying. For the guys out there, in case you were wondering, Many Mysterious Things go on in girl's bathrooms.

Well, that's a bonding moment if there ever was one, but who's to trust someone you just met? Gradually, they all learn about how certain people in their lives have been fucking them over. Mary wants revenge on the guy who's bullied her throughout middle school.

Before Reeve, I was one of the smart girls, especially in math. I was the shy but friendly one. I was a little socially awkward, sure. But after Reeve, I was the fat girl.

Kat wants revenge on her former best friend, the one who's been making her life hell for years.

Rennie has spread a hundred rumors about me over the years—how my dad is a meth dealer and he’s grooming my brother, Pat, for the family business; how I once tried to French kiss her at a sleepover. All kinds of lies, just so she could have something interesting to say.

And Lillia? A certain guy named Alex has been sleeping with Kat AND Lillia's beloved (and very, very young little sister).

...this fake chivalrous Alex also cheated on Kat by taking advantage of my little sister.

The new girl. The cheerleader. The loner. A triple threat. Revenge is a bitch, and so are they.

“We have to be more than careful,” I say. “No one can ever know what we’re up to. What we do together lives and dies with us.”

MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA

The Revenge: The three girls do some seriously cruel shit in this book, and I have to say that the sadistic part of me loved every single fucking moment. They set fire alarms, they give someone a rash, they break windows, they do very, very illegal things. And I don't even care. If you wanted a carebear book, look elsewhere, this book has pissed off people getting revenge on some very unpleasant people who may or may not deserve it. It's not a book for carebears.

The Characters: The book is told through three POVs, that of Mary, Lillia, and Kat. I didn't have any trouble telling them apart.

Kat is the "bitch" out of the three, her voice is the strongest, she is easily identifiable through her toughness and her tendency to be terribly blunt and sometimes profane. I didn't have a problem with her bitchiness at all. None of the characters pissed me off. Kat is not too clichéd to be true; she's tough, but she feels like a genuine character who can actually think and not be one of those Big Bad Girls who are mean and bitchy just for the sake of maintaining her tough-ass image. She is blunt, she is the ringleader, she puts them all together, she gives her allies strength.

“He’s not worth it,” she says. “None of these people are. Trust me.”

Mary is the quietest, the shyest, which makes a hell of a lot of sense, considering she used to be fat and bullied. She's pretty now, even, but the damage remains, and she remains unsure of herself. It took Mary a lot to be able to walk around school with her head up, despite the fact that she's not the "fat girl" anymore. I really loved her reaction to Reeve; she hates him, but she can't help wanting him to notice her and how she's changed as well. It's a naive hope that's realistic, knowing what she's been through.

I was crazy to think that Reeve would ever apologize for the terrible things he did to me. I always hoped, somewhere deep down inside, that I mattered to him. That he cared about me. That he was sorry for what he did.
I know now, I know for sure, that I was wrong.

Lillia is the double agent, with a foot in both worlds. She's best friends with Rennie, hangs out with the jock and cheerleader crowd, she's wealthy, beautiful, and friends with wrong-girl Kat. Lillia is most concerned about her sister, she acts more like a mother to Nadia. There was a whole lot going on with Lillia, she's got a tremendous amount of guilt and shame, both from her perceived responsibility to her sister, and from a very sick event that happened to her.

I kissed him back. I liked it. Then I didn’t. I said no. I think I said no. Didn’t he hear me?
I felt the bile rise in my throat. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

The Assholes: They have more depth to them than I originally expected, but man, at times, the Mean Girl in the book felt really cringe-worthy. Rennie and Reeve are some of the baddies in this book, and they talk like this, at times.

He drawls, “Rennie, honey?”
“Yes, Reevie baby?” Rennie flips her hair around.
“You know you’re my wifey, right?”
Eww.
“Of course.”
“And a wifey has to make sure her man is taken care of,” he continues.

I said AT TIMES, because thankfully, this type of silly speech doesn't persist throughout the book. But I did feel that Rennie was outrageously Mean Girl at some points; she completely played out the Evil Cheerleader Captain with great aplomb, from telling a girl her thighs are the size of Texas, to telling another that she has a skin problem.

“There can’t be any weak links whatsoever. That means if your friend is slacking, you let her know. Like, just as a for instance, Melanie, you need to commit these three words to memory stat: ‘cleanse,’ ‘tone,’ ‘moisturize.’” Melanie’s eyes fill up with tears, but she quickly nods.

The Romance: @_@;;;

I don't even know how to describe it, so let's not even go there. It's not bad, it's just a very interesting twist of the plot.

Overall: Tremendously fun, if you suspend your disbelief by a few foot. Just don't try it at home.