Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Flash Burnout

[Back to regularly-scheduled program, and regularly-sized font.]

I didn't read Flash Burnout for all the wrong reasons.

For a while there, It seemed to be everywhere on blogosphere. My inner rebellious teen decided that something that popular didn't need me. When I eventually picked it up, I found the style of the flap-jacket difficult to read: too choppy. A few months later, I picked it up again and read a few pages. I liked the writing a lot but got an (incomplete) impression of the protagonist's girlfriend, and it made me hesitant to spend time in the head of a guy who would be in love with someone like that. I think I was tired of manipulative and self-absorbed girls portrayed as attractive and desirable.

Yeah. Not good reasons.

I finally read it. It is an excellent book.

Motivation and relationships: there are elements that draw me in the most. In this book, the characters possess distinctive and recognizable traits who don't fall easily within the black/white good guy/bad guy spectrum. They do things out of a variety of considerations, not always carefully thought out. The relationships are multi-faceted and -layered.

The premise, at its simplest version, is a boy whose loyalties and affections are torn between a girl-friend and a friend who is a girl. (And that was another reason I didn't read it for a while: the premise sounded cliched.) But the book is no cliche. Far from it. The author explored dilemmas, some of the everyday-variety, and some of the much larger ones, with honesty. At no point did I get a sense that she had it all figure out on how the characters would deal with their situations, and by hook or by crook, she was going to steer the plot that way.

This is not to say that I think having a goal and knowing where a story ends is necessarily a bad thing. What I am saying is that she didn't force characters into certain traits or actions for the sake of a neat ending. These characters struggle with problems and deal with situations in ways that are sometimes messy and unfinished. And we, as readers, get drawn into these struggles and decision-making processes.

Some readers find the ending unfinished. I, on the other had, thought it was perfect. It is not a standard they-go-back-together/they-were-never-meant-to-be-together or he-saw-the-error-of-his-ways-and-changed-his-life-around type ending. If it were, in my opinion, it would have been a letdown, after how the book has done such a great job of constantly engaging the reader into an authentic exploration of why people do things, how they deal with what life gives them.

I am sure you have heard that the author, L. K. Madigan, has passed away. I didn't know her personally, but like many others, I have felt a connection through her books. If you would like to find out how to help out her family, you may start here at her agent's blogpost.


aquafortis said...

I read this one recently, too. I also had picked it up off the shelf some time ago and then put it back because I wasn't engaged by the flap copy. I'm so glad I gave it another chance. The main character was so authentic, and like you said, his dilemma was depicted in a realistically complex way.

Yat-Yee said...

Yeah, I remember reading your review of it a while back. And I am glad I am not the only one who didn't find the flap copy a good representation of the writing.

The Golden Eagle said...

I definitely agree with you on the ending to this book--when I finished Flash Burnout, for a moment it felt unfinished, but once I stepped away and thought about it I do think she ended in the right place.

Kelly H-Y said...

Wonderful review; but, so heart-breaking that the author has passed away.

Yat-Yee said...

Golden Eagle: I was stunned by the turn of events toward the end and wondered how The Thing was going to be resolved. When the end came, even though it had not really been resolved, I felt a sense of closure.

Kelly: Thanks. And it is heart-breaking. Have you read this book yet? Do you like it?

Bish Denham said...

Sounds like another good one I haven't read yet!

Bish Denham said...

Sounds like another good one I haven't read yet!

MG Higgins said...

Being in Lisa's crit group, I was privileged to read initial drafts of Flash Burnout. It was impressive from the get-go. She wrote a "sort-of" sequel, but her editor at Houghton-Mifflin didn't go for it, which meant she had to scrap the project since she couldn't pitch a sequel to a different publisher. Not only do I miss Lisa tremendously, I miss reading her work. She was a talented writer.

Yat-Yee said...

Bish: I highly recommend it. Let me know what you think after you read it.

MG: It must be so hard for those of you who know her personally. Bummer about the sort-of sequel. Someone else was just saying that even though If I Stay by Gayle Forman didn't need a sequel, Where She Leaves, a sort-of sequel worked well for her.

Janet Johnson said...

Sounds like a really interesting book.

And so sad about L.K. I feel for her family.

Laoch of Chicago said...

I haven't read either of her books yet, but I did read her blog and it is quite heartbreaking. Life really is unfair.

Yat-Yee said...

Janet and Laoch: it is so sad, and I hope you'll get to her books at some point. Let me know what you think when you do.