Melody Burning

Melody Burning

4.7 4
by Whitley Strieber

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Beresford doesn't remember much about his past or how he came to live in the chutes and crawl spaces of the posh high-rise that shares his name. But when rock star and teen sensation Melody McGrath moves to an apartment on the fiftieth floor, he knows he has to be near her. Although she doesn't realize it, Melody is threatened by more dangerous forces than her

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Beresford doesn't remember much about his past or how he came to live in the chutes and crawl spaces of the posh high-rise that shares his name. But when rock star and teen sensation Melody McGrath moves to an apartment on the fiftieth floor, he knows he has to be near her. Although she doesn't realize it, Melody is threatened by more dangerous forces than her manipulative stage mom and the pressures of life in the spotlight. The owner of the glamorous building has been hiding a fatal secret within its walls, and Beresford puts all his plans at risk. Will Beresford and Melody be able to escape with their lives (and love) intact?

Bestselling author Whitley Strieber makes his young adult debut with this pulsing romantic thriller.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—This fast-paced melodrama is told from the alternating views of teens Melody McGrath, a high-maintenance music/TV star, and Beresford, an orphan who lives behind the walls of Melody's high-rise apartment building. Due to the ambitions of her barracuda mom, Melody is a superstar singer and the lead in a hit TV show. She describes her poor-little-rich-girl life of fame and glamour in a breezy, Hollywood voice. Beresford's story unfolds in the third person, as readers are told about his solitary existence hiding in the walls and ceilings of the building, sleeping in vacant apartments, bathing when people vacation, and dressing in tenants' forgotten clothes. When the pricey high rise's greedy owner hires an arsonist to work security, it soon becomes apparent that the occupants are in grave danger. The story feels like a mash-up of Beverly Hills 90210, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with a little Spiderman thrown in for good measure. Lines such as "Careful, Jim, he's a monster!" and "I want him. I can help him grow and become a real person" exemplify the lack of subtlety and character development. For readers wanting romantic adventure with clear-cut good guys and bad guys in a no-brainer read, this will be a good fit.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX
Publishers Weekly
Twilight meets Tarzan in a Los Angeles high-rise in adult author Strieber’s (Communion) disappointing YA debut. After his father is murdered, a boy hides from the killer in an apartment building that is still under construction; he never leaves, growing up to become a feral teenager who lives in the crawlspaces of the now-occupied structure. At 16, he falls in love with a new occupant: pop star/actress Melody McGrath, a troubled young woman with a blossoming career and an abusively domineering mother. Beresford (having named himself for the building he calls home) stalks Melody, who starts out fearing him, then makes an instant 180 and returns his love (“Oh, he was beautiful, he was beautiful, he was gentle and amazing, and he lives in the walls”). Together they contend with Melody’s disapproving mother and the building’s crooked owner, who plans to destroy it for insurance money. The potential of the premise is lost in a sea of flaws: the villain is one-dimensional, the teenage voices are inauthentic, characters’ mood swings are abrupt and implausible, and Melody’s lyrics are downright painful. Ages 12–up. (Dec.)
VOYA - Jessica Skaggs
Melody Burning opens with a young boy listening to his father and another man arguing over a hotel's safety. The boy's father struggles in a fight with the man, falls off the roof of the building, and dies. Fast-forward years later, and this boy has been secretly living in the hotel and has named himself Beresford, based on the hotel's name. He sneaks into the hotel rooms to get food and survives in its hidden nooks and crannies. One day popular teen rock star sensation Melody McGrath moves into the hotel, and Beresford becomes extremely interested in her, even spying on her. Melody is dealing with her own issues, including having a mother who is trying to take advantage of her career. Melody and Beresford meet and become fond of one another. Melody helps Beresford figure out who he is and the mystery behind his father's sudden death. Melody Burning is a combination of music, mystery, and love. Although these are all strong qualities for a book, the entire book falls short. Melody is reminiscent of a fictional version of Miley Cyrus, and her character seems rather typical. The beginning of the story, in which Beresford's father falls to his death, and the mystery he is hiding, will capture readers' attention, yet the mystery is predictable. It is also hard to believe that Beresford could really survive in the hotel living the way he does. The relationship that forms between Melody and Beresford is forced and unbelievable. At one point, the two meet each other and shortly thereafter they tell each other they love one another, which just does not make sense. Because of its predictable nature and forced believability, this book is not recommended for your library's collection. Reviewer: Jessica Skaggs
Children's Literature - Veronica Bartles
Beresford has been living inside the chutes and crawlspaces of the elegant high-rise building he took his name from for most of his life. He has been hiding ever since his father was pushed from the top of that same building during construction. He does not remember much about his life before. Not even his real name. But when teen pop icon Melody McGrath moves into an apartment on the fiftieth floor, he is instantly drawn to her. He wants to be near her, to protect her, to love her. Only, he cannot reveal himself to her, because coming out of the crawlspaces would mean leaving the safety of his hidden existence. When Beresford discovers a plot to set fire to the building, he risks everything, including his anonymity and his freedom, to save Melody from the flames. A contemporary teen romance that does not follow the regular cliched formulas, this story will appeal to lovers of mystery and suspense as well. Think Sarah Dessen meets Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game with a healthy dose of crime thriller thrown in for good measure. Reviewer: Veronica Bartles
Kirkus Reviews
A ham-handed contemporary Phantom of the Opera that features a teen pop sensation and an agoraphobic boy by the adult author of The Wolfen (1978). Teen singer and actress Melody McGrath wakes one night to find an attractive boy beside her bed. His name is Beresford, and he's been living in the walls of her L.A. high rise since the day his father was murdered for trying to document the building's violations. Instead of being understandably terrified, Melody is charmed, and the two fall in love immediately. They are torn apart when the building super discovers Beresford, and he is shipped off to foster care. Luckily, just before he is taken away, Beresford sees the basement bomb planted by the shady superintendent and his father's murderer in order to collect a hefty insurance check. So he breaks out of juvie and arrives just in time to save Melody from the burning building by crawling down the side, Spider-Man style. Stronger writing may have distracted readers from the plot's sheer implausibility, but insipid lines such as, " ‘Melody,' he said in his heart, ‘if I die tonight, my last thought will be of you,' " and overuse of the words "beautiful" and "perfect" to describe everything from Melody's eyes to Beresford's muscles do little to help its case. Too many sour notes in this melody. (Fiction. 12 & up)

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Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
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12 - 18 Years

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Melody Burning

By Whitley Strieber

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2011 Walker & Collier, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-7583-4


I hear you, I know I do.
Who are you?
Who are you?
Don't scare me, don't hurt me,
Don't go, don't go, don't go....

This is a really beautiful building and all, but something is wrong here. I don't know what it is yet, but it's starting to kind of piss me off. Maybe it should scare me, I don't know. Right now I'm in my bedroom on the fiftieth floor, and it sounds like somebody's in the stairwell behind my wall.

There are three doors to this apartment — the kitchen door, the front door, and the den door. The den is here at the end of the apartment, next to my room. Through its door is the back stairwell for movers and things.

Could it be somebody working back there? No, not at this hour.

A stalker?

Oh, man, these guys, there are so many of them.

Last night, I got Mom in here to listen. The verdict? The wind making the building sway. Tonight there is no wind, and I'm once again hearing this, so, hello? Except I know I can't prove it to her, not unless I actually catch somebody. She's going to come down on me again about a shrink, and I don't want that because prescriptions will follow, and that is a road that only goes down.

Mom thinks teens should be messy and chaotic, and I'm anything but, so her theory is that I'm too tense. She's the one who's too tense, and her part of our world is complete bedlam.

Anyway, with this life I'm living, I'm totally tired all the time, so maybe it's just my wild imagination. But how do you sleep with paranoia?

My concert's coming up, and half the songs aren't even written. Plus, I'm behind memorizing my lines for Swingles. Plus, Sandy Green assigned me over a hundred pages of Middlemarch for our English class. Thank you so much. (You think it would be cool to be a showbiz kid with a tutor and no formal classes? Believe me, it's not cool. You can cut classes, but try cutting your tutor. Ain't gonna happen.)

I'm at the point in my career where it's either going up or going down, so I have to be awesome in every episode of Swingles, no matter how tired I am, and I absolutely must fill the Greek Theatre to capacity when my concert happens. I mean, that old outdoor theater in Griffith Park is part of LA music history. Tina Turner, David Bowie, and Elton John performed there, among many others. Getting a gig at the Greek really, really matters.

So I don't exactly need distractions. I pick up my guitar, start hunting for a melody. But what if this person is sitting out there listening? Can he hear me? I don't want him to hear me.

Mom moved us here because the Beresford is ultimate glitz, and right now I need high-profile everything. Paparazzi don't do dinky condos in Calabasas.

Anyway, it's okay because downtown LA is good. There are clubs like M&M where I can just walk in despite being underage, and nobody cares. The line claps when I get out of my car. Mike and Mikey, who own the place, are jaw-to-the-floor over me. I think they'd pay me to chill there all the time.

I don't have a boyfriend because when you turn into a celebrity as fast as I have, dating gets complicated. I dance by myself, and usually when I stop, I'm alone in the middle of a sea of cell phone cameras. I don't care. My own heart is my best dancing partner anyway.

I have Julius, my bodyguard. Julius wears a suit to remind everybody that he is with me on a professional basis. If I want a guy to keep hitting on me, I have to give Julius a little three-fingered wave. Otherwise, the guy is swept away. Zoom. Gone. Then later you see him looking sheepish at the bar or whatever.

Stuff like this is probably why I really enjoy being alone, like right now when I'm in my room with the city out there sparkling in the night.

Except, am I alone?

I haven't heard the sound for a while, so maybe it is really nothing. The wind making the building sway.

I fool around with my guitar. My guitar is my most private place. And yet, it's also my link to my fans and to the world.

I find a melody, it's sweet, it has a catch in it. Nice. So I sing, "I hear you, I know I do. Who are you? Who are you?"

I'm not gonna call Julius, and I'm not gonna wake up Mom, but I need to get past feeling there is someone watching me.

I press my ear against the wall.

Nothing. So am I alone or not?

I put on the new billowy robe Mom gave me. I get the black and red can of Mace out of the drawer in my bedside table. Julius has taught me how to use it. I put my finger through the ring.

If there is some guy out there, I'm going to spray him like the roach that he is. Then I'll tell Mom. Then I will call Julius. Nobody is gonna tell me it's the damn wind.

Okay, I open my door. I step out into the hall. The apartment is really quiet — but not completely dark. As I look down the hall and across the living room, I see a faint line of light under Mom's door on the far side. She's awake. Also, I hear music. Frank Sinatra. So I know who's in there with her: Dapper Dan. At least, that's what I call him. She's dating two guys, Dapper D, who wears sports jackets and takes her to hear cabaret, and the Wolverine. He looks like an Egyptian mummy trying to be an Elvis impersonator and likes to go clubbing. Faint music drifts through the apartment.

Furious as she makes me, my heart hurts for my mom. Bottom line, my dad ditched her for a bimbo. We fight all the time, but I'll never leave her or stop loving her. It breaks my heart to see how hard she tries to find her way out of the loneliness of her life. But she's a pistol.

I turn. Now I'm facing the window at the far end of this hall. To my left is the door into the den. I enter it.

This is where all my books are. My poetry book that Daddy read to me when I was little. "The old canoe by the shadowy shore ..." I would sit cuddled in his arms. We had a nice life, I thought. Guess nobody was happy except me.

Okay, the door is right over there. All I have to do is unlock it and step out into the stairwell. Oh, God, I am so scared. Mom's room is far away. I could scream but she'd never believe me. And Mace? What if it doesn't work, or I spray myself? What if he has a gun?

I put a hand on the bolt and, as silently as possible, I turn it. There is the faintest of scrapes.

My song echoes in my mind. "I hear you, I know I do, I know I do ..."


Don't go there, girl. Anyway, they don't exist.


I lean against the door. The silence from the other side is total.

So maybe it is a ghost.

And then I feel the door move. As in, somebody just leaned against it from the other side. Pushing.

The second I turn the knob, they're going to burst in on me.

Very slowly, very quietly, I turn the bolt back ... only it won't go back — it's stuck. Because he's out there pushing so hard the door is warping.

He must be incredibly strong. He must be huge.

And he knows I'm here, and he's just an inch away.

I twist the bolt harder ... and finally it clicks in.

The whole door creaks. Then it sort of lets go. Has he moved away? Was he even there?

I am about to be sick. I want to say "I have a gun," but I can't make my throat work.

I run back into my room, lock my door, and dive into bed. I clutch the Mace like it's a lifeline.

And now, another sound against the wall. I hate this! I can't stand this! Am I losing my mind for real?

I look at the phone. If I pick it up and call Julius, he'll be up here in five minutes with ten cops trailing behind. Except I just wish I could prove there really is a guy out there and it's not all in my head. Because it could be. I fear that.

I get out of bed and pick up my guitar.

I hear you, I know I do.
Who are you?
Who are you?
Don't scare me, don't hurt me,
Don't go, don't go, don't go....

Am I completely insane to even sing that? Except it's got flow. It does. I click on Voice Memo on my iPad and do it again. Let the songs come.

Real songs come out of hurt and loss and longing. If they also come out of fear, then this is a winner.

I close my eyes, imagining who I used to be. Melanie Cholworth. Melody McGrath is much better — I have to admit Mom is right about that. Nowadays, I have to actually pretend that I'm the real me. I guess Melody took over.

I get back into bed and close my eyes. But sleep doesn't come; sleep is far away. Even though it's quiet now, I can't stop listening. I imagine claws coming through the wall.

On the day we moved in and I arrived with my gaggle of snapping paparazzi, I looked up at the soaring facade and I had this gut reaction that made me go, "Ohmygosh."

In my mind's eye, I saw people tumbling off the balconies.... They were all girls about my age, and they all had my hair and my complexion and my clothes on, and they were all falling just like I think I would probably fall, with their arms spread wide, trying to say "I am flying, Mother dear — look at me!"

Fly and fly and fly and fly.... There's a song there, girl, remember that. Songs live in my nooks and crannies. I have to hunt for them like a miner looking for diamonds or whatever, I guess.

Shit! I hear it again.

No way am I staying in my room, but also no way am I going to Mom's room when she and Dapper D might be getting cozy.

So I drag the mattress, which turns out to be really heavy, until it's all the way across the room.

I look at my wall. How thick is it? Could he cut his way through?

I will sing all night, until the dawn. Trouble is, dawn's so far away and I am so alone.


Deep in the Beresford's basement, Frank the Torch listened, and he didn't like what he was hearing. This was exactly what Mr. Szatson had complained about. Some squatter. "Get him outta there, Frank. Wylie couldn't do it, but you know your way around buildings. Get him out." Wylie had been his predecessor. Fired over the squatter. Or so it appeared.

Six weeks ago, he'd come off a nickel in San Quentin two years early. Why the sentence reduction he did not know, but he was not about to argue. He'd been in for a dumb little job in City of Industry, the Alert Cleaners fire. The owner was looking to cash out and retire and couldn't find a buyer, so he'd called Frank. It had been an easy job — ten bills in his wallet, don't even think about it.

Except he'd come up against a control-freak insurance investigator who'd found an image of him on the security camera tape of the gas station across the street. With his record, it was a no-brainer. The jury took nineteen minutes to convict.

As soon as he was out, he'd gotten a call on his cell: Mr. Szatson wants to see you. He'd known Szatson for years, for the same reason that he knew a lot of real estate developers. They needed fires, these guys, and arson was Frank's profession. Also, he was at the top of the heap when it came to skills. He'd been a civil engineer, so he knew structures. If you hired him, you could count on three things: The fire would work. The arson investigators would not trace it back to you. You would get your payday.

Mr. Szatson had sent him to work at the Beresford as its superintendent. "You're an engineer, Frank. I need an engineer. Because the place has problems. There's a squatter and a lot of famous and rich tenants. I don't need that crap, so I want you to get rid of him."

There were lots of ways to hide in a big place like this. Too many.

He didn't think that was the only reason he'd been hired, though. Maybe Szatson had even pulled him out of the stir. He was that powerful. To put it bluntly, Szatson needed a fire. Somewhere in the Szatson empire, Frank the Torch was going to do a job, and probably more than one. Not here, though. This was the Szatson flagship.

Frank was thrilled by the Beresford. Aside from making sure the heat worked and the elevators didn't get stuck, there wasn't a lot to do but watch the beautiful people come and go. There were stars in the place, Melody McGrath, for instance. Pretty as a picture, sweet as honey. But that mother of hers — wow, that was one power hitter. He'd never tangled with her, but he'd been warned by other members of the staff that she was a bullmastiff and you did not want to cross her.

You also did not want her to pull her precious daughter out of the place since she brought so much media attention. If anything went wrong, they would surely leave.

He flipped from one security camera to the next. He'd seen this character — glimpsed him — standing in front of the laundry room. Black clothes, head to foot. Wild hair.

He was going to find him and take him somewhere far away. Maybe even drop the bastard off a cliff. Or at least punch him out.


I went through today like a zombie and made everybody on the Swingles set furious. Mom thinks I'm hallucinating or whatever, and here I am alone in my room and I just heard it again! This time it went hisss, not like a snake but as if it was sliding against my wall.

Sleep is once again not an option, so I'm gonna work. The Swingles call is at six thirty tomorrow, and I could memorize my lines now instead of in the limo at the crack of dawn like I did this morning.

Swingles is pretty fun, actually. The pilot was huge in the ratings, and then came better news: the second week didn't bring all that much ratings deterioration, as they call it.

I'm lying on my right side and facing my wall of glass, letting my eyes slowly close to LA at night with a slice of moon above. Very beautiful and mysterious, as long as you don't think about the fact that the city is really a sea of condos and strip malls.

While I'm lying here thinking of the mysteries of life and wondering if love will ever come my way (I'm such a drama queen), the sound comes and I jump off the bed.

After a moment, the sliding starts again.

Is it coming from the other side of the wall, or inside it?

I grab my laptop and go to the Beresford's website, where I pull up the apartment layouts. (Can we really afford eleven grand a month for this amazing apartment?)

Anyway, my bedroom backs onto a service shaft beside the stairwell outside our den.

So maybe Mom is sort of right. But it's not the building swaying — it's projected sound from somewhere coming up through the shaft behind my room or the stairwell behind that.

So here's a creepy thought: what if what I'm hearing is somebody actually cutting through the wall, not from the stairwell but from inside the shaft beside it? I've already had about forty-seven stalkers, guys with dirty T-shirts and gray skin and hunter's eyes.

If you had a gun, you could shoot me right through the wall that's behind the headboard of my bed. While I was on the Swingles set today, the maid put my bed back together. Maybe I'll move the mattress again.

Jesus — I am so neurotic, which is why my insides are turning into an acid bath. I'm sixteen and already chug Mylanta. Xanax is next, then amitriptyline, then up the line through Prozac to the Effexors of the world. I know the drill.

Maybe there is no .357 Magnum out there an inch from my headboard. Maybe it's something innocent but annoying, like a papi trying to plant a spike camera. If you don't know what that is, it looks just like a nail. Stick it through a wall, and you've got an eye in the room. Add a spike mike, and your target is in a movie.

What if it's some horrible old man who lives in the basement and comes up at night? What if he isn't a vampire but a cannibal? Has anybody ever disappeared in this place?

You're sixteen years old, girl, and there's no bogeyman here. Oh, my dear Beresford that I must now call home, you are haunted by a very real something.

I listen. Breathing? Maybe. Or maybe it's that I'm insane. That's what Mom would think.

Quiet time of the night, everybody asleep except me. Is somebody in with Mom? Don't know. Instead of looking, this time I just lock my door. I take my Mace out and cradle it. Earlier, I reread the instructions. Pull the ring and press the red button. It's pretty simple, actually.

If a shot came through the wall, would I even have a second to realize I was dying?

I know he's out there.

Except now he's quiet. So maybe it's something else. I close my eyes and let my music take my mind.

"Far and far and far and far, I'm going far and far and far and far, and the stars are way behind me, the stars are way behind me."


Excerpted from Melody Burning by Whitley Strieber. Copyright © 2011 Walker & Collier, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Whitley Strieber is one of the great names in science fiction. He has written many bestsellers, including Communion, The Wolfen, The Hunger, The Day after Tomorrow, Critical Mass, and The Omega Point. He lives in Santa Monica, California.

WHITLEY STRIEBER is the author of over twenty novels and works of nonfiction among them The Wolfen, The Hunger, Communion, and The Coming Global Superstorm (with Art Bell), which was the inspiration for the film The Day After Tomorrow.

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Melody Burning 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Res2, dark trees. <br> Res3, broken tree. <br> Res4, owl place. <br> Res5, tallest tree. <br> Res7, forest end. <br> Res8, hills and grassy places. <br> Res9, cave opening. <br> Res10, highslant. <br> Res11, cliff.
thedreamerofstories More than 1 year ago
Melody isn't meant to be a moody teenager, more a teenager who's learning how to be independent from a rather controlling mother while discovering what's important to her. Melody's relationship with Beresford is one of curiosity and perhaps slight vanity. Novels can be difficult to read when written from two different perspectives, but in Melody Burning, it gives the story more context. Yes, Melody is a bit superficial, but that's because of her upbringing. Melody Burning is a short, but sweet novel of simple teen love. The characters may be shallow at times, but it is still worth your time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Magatt More than 1 year ago
COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN! This book was great. Please don't be discouraged by lesser reviews. This author is extremely talented...his swift writing made every chapter fast paced and fun, never dull or drug out. He did an astounding job switching between first and third person. His characters were well rounded, you could really get a feel for who each one was, and therefore, you will really grow to love them. This story was fascinating, and if you like a good romance, or even a good suspense, this is a book for you! I say READ IT! It's a quick read. I read it in a day because I was so intrigued. Recommend for anyone who loves YA, Romance, or Suspense reads.