Laurie Boyle Crompton
February 1st, 2013
For review from publisher / netgalley.
Synopsis via Goodreads
Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She's desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark's feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her "sext" photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now...
When I accepted Blaze for review, I got the feeling that it was going to be one of those books that I'd either really like or really dislike. When accepting books for review, I try to stick to ones that I'm confident I'll enjoy, but I took a chance with this one. Suffice it to say, it was worth it!
First, I want to talk about Blaze. My initial impression of her was that she was fun, a bit quirky, and painfully naive/impressionable. She did not come off at all like a 17-year-old, but instead, more like she was only 15. I would see her about to get herself into a stupid situation and it was like watching a horror movie when you are screaming at the dumb bimbo not to go upstairs, but she can't hear you and does it anyway. She was also too forgiving when it came to her crappy friends, especially Amanda, whom I'd have completely disowned, pronto, after what she did to Blaze. However, no matter how much she frustrated me at times, I really loved her character and found myself constantly cheering for her. She was a flawed, yet refreshing, new voice in the world of YA heroines. She starts out fairly weak but, in the face of the sext photo backlash, really starts to grow up and out as a character. She was very genuine, unique, and had me riding shotgun next to her whilst on her emotional journey. One of my favorite characters was Josh, Blaze's little brother. Their relationship was by far the best in the book and it was so sweet! He could be a typical bratty 13-year-old, but he was also protective of his sister and I could tell how much he cared about her. The addition of Josh's various friends to the story was something that I loved and thought helped set this book apart from others out there. "Mark the Shark" was a total player and, quite frankly, a dick. His only redeeming quality was that he had the good graces to be ashamed of what he did and the consequences that followed. Then we have Quentin, and oh how I wish there had been more of him. I liked that there was a small amount of history between him and Blaze from when they were younger. Blaze + Quentin = a match made in comic book heaven! If only she hadn't spent so dang much time thinking about Mark. >_>
Blaze spends her free time being absorbed in reading and creating comic books and chauffeuring around a gang of soccer 'cretins', aka her brother, Josh, and his friends. Automatically this was something different and new for me. Both of these elements were part of what secured my growing fondness for this book. While I'm not all that knowledgeable on all things comic-book related, I loved the references and how the author managed to seamlessly incorporate them all throughout the book. (I have read Sin City so I appreciated that reference!) The family dynamics between Blaze and Josh, their mother, and their absentee father were very keenly wrought and helped to add even more dimension to the story. Then of course we have the issue of the "sext" photo and severe bullying. This is something that happens quite a bit throughout schools and towns all across the world and the aftermath is never pretty. It is a serious issue and Crompton managed to shine light on it in a very effective way. Despite her previous naivety, in the end, Blaze handled things very well and managed to stay fairly strong--*insert a mini breakdown here and there*-- throughout the ordeal. There was definitely a sense of hope laced all throughout this story, and I think that is very important. Sometimes it is hard to see past the current mess and seeming hopelessness of a situation. Furthermore, Crompton showed that while it can and will be very hard, things can get better. Her handling of the actual sexual content was something I also thought she did well in making sure it was necessary to the plot and, while a bit detailed, no more explicit than required.
Crompton's writing style was crisp and honest, knowing when to be deep and serious and when to lighten things up with some well-placed humor. She was able to make me wholly dedicated to the story she was telling, and I was able to immerse myself in Blaze's emotion. The writing flowed in a swift and consistent manner that kept me wanting to turn the pages.
The ending was nothing short of perfect. Actually, I'd say that about the whole last part. We get introduced to a few new characters, Butterfly and Maniac, a hip truck-driving couple. Blaze's dad makes his first actual appearance. The way the conflict was resolved between Blaze and her dad was pure epicness. Honestly, if I had rated this book based purely on the last 1/3 or so of the book, it would have been five stars all the way.
Characters: Annoyingly naive heroine but lovable and shows significant character growth. Refreshing array of supporting characters.
Writing: Very polished and genuine writing style.
Plot: Both hilarious and emotionally wrought. An original take on the "sext" photo story line.
Enjoyment/Likability: The more I read, the more I liked it! Really enjoyed.
Recommendable: Great for YA contemp fans!
Overall: With its unique comic book twist, Blaze was a harmonious balance of humor and depth. The story was good to begin with, but as it continued, it grew into something just shy of amazing. A terrific YA contemporary debut from an author showing a ton of promise.
Cover: Simple but cool! Lovin' the pink hair!
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