How To Set a Fire and Why

Pantheon. Jul. 2016. 304p. ISBN 9781101870570. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101870587. F
OrangeReviewStarLucia Stanton is a highly intelligent yet deeply troubled teenager with a long-dead father and a mother in a mental institution. She lives with her eccentric aunt in a converted garage. Angry, disaffected, and in a new high school where she finds few kindred spirits, Lucia becomes involved with a group of equally disaffected youth with anarchist leanings called the Arson Club, who view burning down buildings as a political act, a way to express their disenchantment with the state of society. A caring teacher offers Lucia a potential escape from her difficult situation through a chance to attend a prestigious high school that caters to precocious, disquieted youth. However, a run-in with the law as a result of her relationship with some of the more active members of the Arson Club will cost her this opportunity, leading to her quitting school and eventually to homelessness when her aunt dies unexpectedly. Ball's articulate and utterly frank protagonist is something of a Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye) for the 21st century, struggling to find the authentic beyond the hypocrisy of the world around her.
VERDICT A startling, unsettling, and significantly memorable novel. [See Prepub Alert, 1/25/16.]
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