Brooklyn, Burning

Brooklyn, Burning

3.0 1
by Steve Brezenoff
     
 

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When you're sixteen and no one understands who you are, sometimes the only choice left is to run. If you're lucky, you find a place that accepts you, no questions asked. And if you're really lucky, that place has a drum set, a place to practice, and a place to sleep. For Kid, the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, are that place. Over the course of two scorching

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Overview

When you're sixteen and no one understands who you are, sometimes the only choice left is to run. If you're lucky, you find a place that accepts you, no questions asked. And if you're really lucky, that place has a drum set, a place to practice, and a place to sleep. For Kid, the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, are that place. Over the course of two scorching summers, Kid falls hopelessly in love and then loses nearly everything and everyone worth caring about. But as summer draws to a close, Kid finally finds someone who can last beyond the sunset. Brooklyn, Burning is a fearless and unconventional love story. Brezenoff never identifies the gender of his two main characters, and readers will draw their own conclusions about Kid and Scout. Whatever they decide, Brooklyn, Burning is not a book any teen reader will soon forget. Brooklyn, Burning is the story of two summers in Brooklyn, two summers of fires, music, loss, and ultimately, love.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sixteen-year-old Kid, a passionate drummer and painter, spends summers on the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, taking refuge in Fish's bar, practicing drumming in the bar's cellar, and hanging out with friends. It's at Fish's that Kid meets Scout, a magnetic musician that Kid is drawn to but reluctant to get close to, still heartbroken after falling in love with—and losing—Felix, a musician and junkie, the previous summer. Brezenoff (The Absolute Value of -1) alternates between the events of each summer, but it's another authorial decision—to never make clear Kid or Scout's gender—that gives the story, and their relationship, their power (Kid's narration directly addresses Scout as "you"). The author throws out occasional references to Scout's "dirty-honey" singing voice and pixyish looks, and at one point Kid's father rages, "I've got the only kid I know who doesn't know whether to be straight or gay or a girl or a boy or what." But Brezenoff lets readers take the reins, recasting and reimagining the lead roles as often as they like. For readers with little use for labels, it's an intimate yet wonderfully open rock ‘n' roll love story. Ages 12�18. (Sept.)
VOYA - Jane Van Wiemokly
Is sixteen-year-old Kid male or female? Gay or straight? Even Kid's father, who does not want Kid in his home, angrily states, "I've got the only kid I know who doesn't know whether to be straight or gay or a girl or a boy or what?" Brezenoff never reveals the gender of two characters, Kid and Scout, leaving it up to readers to fill in their own perceptions. Living on the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, for two summers, Kid mostly crashes (illegally since underage) in Fish's basement of her bar, where Kid can practice drums. The summer before, Kid had loved musician and druggie Felix, who died suddenly, but now Kid meets and falls for Scout, another talented teen musician. When someone sets fire to an abandoned warehouse where some homeless people had lived, the police suspect Kid. Between the arson mystery, the love story with Scout, the drama of teen/family rebellion, and an unexpected reunion with Kid's mother, these two summers have transformed Kid. Friendship, love, family, and music are the impetuses for Kid's story, which is related in flashbacks of the previous summer. Told in first-person narrative by Kid, Scout is always referred to as "you," which allows for "hiding" the genders, but can be disconcerting and makes for occasional awkward, jarring reading. Parts of Brooklyn are evocatively portrayed with descriptions that show Brezenoff intimately knows, or remembers, this part of New York and loves it. Reviewer: Jane Van Wiemokly
Children's Literature - Elizabeth Young
Sixteen year old Kid is blamed for a warehouse fire, kicked out of her parents' home, loses her best friend and really needs to play drums at Fish's bar. Welcome to the end of summer in Brooklyn, where it is too hot to sleep, and the days just melt together. Summer vacations are tough, but when you live on the street and miss your first love it can be dangerous. Kid finds herself the subject of a suspicious fire and in a fit of anger admits she started it. The rest of summer is spent running from the police, then running from her past. Kid meets Scout one day and her world is forever changed. Teens struggling with parental issues, best friend concerns and even dealing with a broken heart will all relate to this earthy story. Brezenoff pushes the edginess to a new level, making this a work for mature teens, weaving nuances such as drugs, alcohol, cursing and the promiscuity of a friend. Surely not all sixteen year olds are delinquents, though this presents the notion that maybe they all are, at least in Brooklyn. Told through Kid's eyes and voice it can seem disjointed at times, as not all chapters flow seamlessly. Overall, it is worth the escape, and may even have you wishing for your hometown or first love—even if they are the same. Reviewer: Elizabeth Young
Kirkus Reviews

A lyrical, understated punk-kid love song to Brooklyn and to chosen family.

Early in the summer of 2006, Scout comes to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, looking for someone to make music with. Kid, who plays drums and was kicked out by an angry father a year earlier, ostensibly for drinking, greets the newcomer with both suspicion and reluctant interest. Meanwhile, police are investigating the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse fire—based on a true event—and Kid is a suspect. As Kid moves through the streets and shops of Brooklyn, the narration names each place, creating both specificity and familiarity. Flashbacks to the previous summer, the fire and Kid's relationship with another troubled street kid slowly and deftly provide insight into Kid's circumstances. Homelessness, queerness and the rougher sides of living on the street are handled without a whiff of sensationalism, and the moments between Kid, the first-person narrator, and Scout, addressed as "you," are described in language so natural and vibrant that readers may not even notice that neither character's gender is ever specified. While a couple of scenes with Kid's mother feel overly redemptive, readers will probably be happy for them anyway.

Overall, the tone is as raw, down-to-earth and transcendent as the music Scout and Kid ultimately make together. (Fiction. 14 & up)

School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—It's a summer of love for Kid and Scout, two runaway teenagers living in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Complicating their romance, Kid is wanted for questioning about a tragic warehouse fire that happened just before the summer began. As the season draws to a close and Kid finally decides to work toward proving his/her innocence, he/she worries about losing Scout before leaving Brooklyn forever. The story is presented in nonlinear format, often flashing back to Kid's previous relationship with an older street junkie named Felix. It is implied that this relationship ended tragically and explains why Kid is depressed when the story begins. Told from Kid's perspective, the title avoids assigning gender pronouns to the protagonist, allowing readers to make their own decisions about the character's gender and sexual identity. It's also assumed that Kid has not yet made these particular decisions either. While this is a somewhat clever idea, it also proves to be confusing at times and may ultimately prevent readers' from identifying with the character. This, combined with a menagerie of forgettable and unrealistic supporting characters, will limit the book's appeal.—Ryan Donovan, New York Public Library

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780761375265
Publisher:
Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/28/2011
Pages:
202
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile:
760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Steve Brezenoff has written several chapter books for young readers, and The Absolute Value of -1 is his first novel for teens. Though Steve grew up in a suburb on Long Island, he now lives with his wife, their son, and their terrier, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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