Want it by Friday, September 28
Order now and choose Expedited Shipping during checkout.
Same Day shipping in Manhattan. See Details
“A phenomenal, haunting debut.”
—GILLIAN FLYNN, bestselling author of Gone Girl
"I burned through Krysten Ritter's hugely accomplished debut. Bonfire is dark, disturbing, and compulsively readable."
—RUTH WARE, bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10
Nothing burns as bright as the truth.
It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small-town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.
But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’s biggest scandal from more than a decade ago, involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.
Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as she tries desperately to find out what really happened to Kaycee, troubling memories begin to resurface and she begins to doubt her own observations. And when she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game”—it will threaten reputations, and lives, in the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.
With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote rural town of just five claustrophobic square miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of what happens when your past and present collide.
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
KRYSTEN RITTER is well-known for her starring roles in the award-winning Netflix original series Marvel’s Jessica Jones and cult favorite Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, as well as her pivotal role on AMC’s Breaking Bad. Ritter’s work on film includes Big Eyes, Listen Up Philip, Life Happens, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and She’s Out of My League. She is the founder of Silent Machine, a production company that aims to highlight complex female protagonists. Ritter and her dog, Mikey, split their time between New York and Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
MY LAST YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL, when Kaycee Mitchell and her friends got sick, my father had a bunch of theories.
“Those girls are bad news,” he said. “Nothing but trouble.” He took it as a matter of faith that they were being punished. To him, they deserved what they got.
Kaycee was the first. This made sense. She was the first to do everything: lose her virginity, try a cigarette, throw a party.
Kaycee walked in front of her friends, like an alpha wolf leading the pack. In the cafeteria, she decided where to sit and the others followed; if she ate her lunch, the rest did too; if she pushed her food around on her tray or just ate a bag of Swedish Fish, her friends did the same. Misha was the meanest and the loudest one.
But Kaycee was the leader.
So when she got sick, we, the senior girls of Barrens High, weren’t horrified or disturbed or worried.
We were jealous.
We all hoped secretly that we’d be next.
That first time it happened was in fourth period debate. Everyone had to participate in mock elections. Kaycee made her way through three rounds of primary elections. She was easy to believe in the role of politician, convincing and quick-witted, a talented liar: I’m not even sure Kaycee knew when she was telling the truth and when she wasn’t.
She was standing at the front of the room delivering a practiced stump speech when suddenly it was as though the tether connecting her voice to her throat was cut. Her mouth kept moving, but all the volume had been turned off. No words came out.
For a few seconds, I thought there was something wrong with me.
Then her hands seized on the podium and her jaw froze, just locked open, as if she was stuck, silently screaming. I was sitting in the first row—no one else ever wanted those seats, so they were mine to take—and she was only a few feet away from me. I’ll never forget how her eyes looked: like they’d transformed suddenly into tunnels.
Derrick Ellis shouted something, but Kaycee ignored him. I could see her tongue behind her teeth, see a wad of white gum standing there. Some people laughed—they must have thought it was a joke—but I didn’t.
I’d been friends with Kaycee, best friends, back when we were young. It was only the second time in my life I’d ever seen her look afraid.
Her hands began to shake, and that’s when all the laughter stopped, and everyone went quiet. For a long time, there was no sound in the room but her hands knocking against the podium, a silver ring she always wore clacking its desperate rhythm.
Then the shaking traveled up her arms and she rolled her eyes back and fell, crashing the podium down with her.
I remember being on my feet. I remember people shouting. I re- member Mrs. Cunningham on her knees, lifting Kaycee’s head, and someone screaming about keeping her tongue from being swallowed. Someone ran for the nurse. Someone else was crying; I don’t remember who, just the sound of it, a desperate whimpering. Weirdly, the only thing I could think to do was pick up her notes, which had fallen, and reshuffle them in order, making sure the corners aligned.
Then, all of a sudden, it passed. The spasm apparently left her body, like an ebbing tide. Her eyes opened. She blinked and sat up, looking vaguely confused, but not displeased, to find us all gathered around her. By the time the nurse came, she seemed normal again. She insisted it was just a weak spell, because she hadn’t eaten. The nurse led Kaycee out of the classroom, and the whole time she was glancing back at us over her shoulder as if to be sure we were all watching her go. And we were—of course we were. She was the kind of person you couldn’t help but watch.
We all forgot about it. Or pretended to.
Then, three days later, it happened again.
Reading Group Guide
Reader’s Group Guide for BONFIRE by Krysten Ritter
In order to provide reading groups with the most informed and thought-provoking questions possible, it is necessary to reveal certain aspects of the story in this guide. If you have not finished reading Bonfire, we respectfully suggest that you do so first.
Bonfire Reading Guide – Questions
1. Would you call Abby an unreliable narrator? Do you trust her?
2. Do you relate to Abby? What are Abby’s greatest vulnerabilities? Do you think she has strengths or vulnerabilities that she is unaware of?
3. After working so hard to leave Barrens and her small-town roots behind, why did Abby return home? Did she find what she was looking for?
4. Why did Abby turn her environmental investigation into a search for Kaycee? Why did Abby keep pushing, even when she was threatened?
5. Describe Abby’s relationship with her father. How did her parents and upbringing shape who she became as an adult?
6. What do you think of Misha? Does the author intend for her to be a sympathetic character? Why or why not?
7. What pressures led Brent to get involved with Optimal’s exploitation of local high school girls? Is Brent to blame?
8. Describe the scenes in which the town comes together to celebrate – their bonfires and football games. In what ways are the characters trying to relive their high school days? Do they succeed?
9. What does the novel say about reconciling with your past? Do you think Abby was happy that she returned to Barrens?
10. Could this story have happened in a bigger town or a city? What about Barrens made it easy for Optimal to take advantage of its citizens? Is there an underlying takeaway about the relationship between big companies and small towns? Explain.
11. Were you surprised by the revelations at the end of the book? Did you suspect Brent or Misha all along?
12. Are Abby and Condor a good match? Did you want to see them together in the end?
13. What do you think the future holds for Abby? Were you satisfied with the ending?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Thoroughly enjoyed this reading experience. Ms. Ritter takes us on a working trip to her old hometown, Barrens, Indiana. She is returning after a ten year absence to investigate her towns major employer, a plastics manufacturer. Rumors have circulated for years about the community's water supply being contaminated by this corporation. Abby shares investigative responsibility with her coworker and friend, Joe. Abby also wants to trace down her childhood friend and high school tormentor. But Kaycee is nowhere to be found. Intriguing old friendships many, many rumors hint at corruption but the townspeople prove reluctant to talk about any or all the issues. Spend a few hours and enjoy the debut novel of Krysten Ritter. Recommended reading.
Main character was lacking
Had low expectations since she is an actress and was pleasantly surprised.
I was given a free copy of this book to review and I accepted it because it sounded like a good mystery, not because of who the author is. I had no idea she was an actress. I have never seen any of the things she has been in. If I had known I might have looked at it with a different eye. I enjoyed the book very much. It is a satisfying mystery with all the right elements by a new author. Because of her job Abby Williams returns home after ten years to Barrens, the town where she was a nobody picked on by the popular kids. An environmental lawyer, Abby has been sent there to investigate a complaint against Optimal Plastics, the company the town owes everything to, the company with a squeaky clean reputation and no environmental problems. As she investigates she is convinced that something is not right and somehow Optimal is connected to the disappearance to her old friend and high school bad girl Kaycee. The case takes many twists and turns that leave Abby and the reader wondering if she is going crazy and fearing to trust anyone. Some of the twists I expected but others were not foreseen. Ms Ritter wraps the story up in a very satisfying fashion.
Expect to not put it down until you get to the end
Bonfire will grab you into the story from the beginning. It became a quick read with a great psychological mystery. Some twists and turns surprised me and it was hard to put the book down. I read late into the night with this one! We meet and get to know the main character, Abby, through her past and current events. She returns to her small home town as an environmental lawyer on a case. It had been years since she had been back there. Seeing and remembering things from her past sometimes overwhelm her. The author created a person with flaws like all of us are. Until I went to Goodreads to add the book, I never knew the author was the actress from Jessica Jones. This was a great debut novel and hope she has more books in her future plans! * I was provided an ARC to read from the publisher and NetGalley. It was my decision to read and review this book.
This is a really richly evoked and tightly plotted novel with some very dark corners and hidden secrets. A women returns home, reluctantly, in her official role as investigator. When she looks into the very company credited with saving the town from extinction, people start to turn on her, yet the same company are suspected of poisoning the water supply. This is a town with secrets and secrets from the past, things which haunt the present and hidden anger too. There is an interesting cast of characters in this town, a black gay lawyer, the head of the local school who was a very different character in the past, and let’s not forget Abby’s role in all of this… Abby is a very interesting character who developed well over the course of the book. Her return to a town which had spat her out is a gritty premise and one explored in all uncomfortable and tantalising detail. Best of all is the town they call Barren. Barren by name and barren by nature. A remote, claustrophobic place which is aptly suited to the themes of the story. Past and present blend seamlessly – you can smell the bonfire throughout. The flames consume everything in its path but you can’t take your eyes of the destruction.
Looking forward to another book by this author. Keep me interested and was a quick read.
Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Excellent read. A woman working for an environmental watchdog company as a lawyer, Abby Williams, goes back to her hometown. A hometown she hasn’t visited in a decade. She left 3 days after her high school graduation. She was “friends” with Kaycee, a girl who could be very mean spirited and who hung out with the popular girls. Kaycee left town shortly before Abby. Abby was not popular and was actually picked on, a lot, by the popular girls. In her venture to find out what Optimal, the corporation her company is investigating, she is drawn back to her high school days. Trying to make sense of it all, she finds a hidden darkness that has been secret for the pas decade. Not only that, it’s a secret that is still going on. An absolutely mesmerizing thriller that I could not put down, well let’s say I didn’t want to, but sometimes there are distractions you can’t help. Ha! Gripping, haunting and pulse racing I thoroughly enjoyed the heck out of this book. I ended it with a huge fist pump and a loud “yes” when all the discoveries were brought to light. I was very intrigued when I saw that Krysten Ritter had written a book. I first noticed her in the TV show about the “B” in Apartment 23 (still unsure why that show was cancelled) and was very excited that I received this galley. Huge thanks to Crown Publishing and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-Galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
I was drawn in right from the beginning, telling myself I would just start it with a chapter or two before bed. 25% of the book later I finally couldn’t stay up and had to put it down for the night. By the time I got to 50% you could not pry this book from my hands without fear of injury because I was so engrossed in the story. I finished the last half in one sitting. The suspense was so well done and there were plenty of twists and surprises. The whole story took a very different direction than where I thought it was going. That direction turned out to be very dark and disturbing and I was a bit shocked by how gritty and raw it was I guess because the author is Krysten Ritter I expected it to be witty, smart, darkly funny but I wasn’t anticipating just how dark it would become. The main character Abby is absolutely the standout of this book. She’s such a compelling character that I loved and hated, admired and pitied all at once. Abby is seriously messed up but I couldn’t help but like her anyway. As Abby returns to her hometown of Barrens and the story of her past begins to unravel we see why she is such a hot mess and it’s entirely understandable. She’s obviously intelligent but drinks too much and it enables her bad behaviour. She has a difficult relationship with her father and was bullied by her former best friend Kaycee and her minions/mean girls through high school. Despite her issues Abby is admirable for her work in protecting the environment and people from toxic chemicals. The first part of the book is mostly about Optimal, a big plastics company allegedly polluting the local water supply. I totally sounded like a lawyer in that previous sentence! Since the economy of pretty well the entire town depends on the company no one is very inclined to help her find evidence or to speak against the company. There are the a few complaints of skin rashes and crop failure but as Abby digs deeper she finds much more serious health issues. The company begins to look increasingly sinister. Two men capture Abby’s attention, her high school crush who now works for Optimal, and Condor, high school burn out and her neighbour in Barrens. It was obvious to me which one was the right choice but Abby does not generally make good decisions. At about 90% in she makes a terrible choice to trust someone that I knew she shouldn’t. It was like in a horror movie when you are screaming for the character not to go down to the basement, but they do and it ends badly. As I said previously, Abby has pretty poor judgement so it wasn’t a surprise and I was cringing for her blindness to his obvious smarminess. The ending was satisfying, although not a completely happily ever after. I suspect we’ll be seeing more of Abby in the future because this book seems like the start of a great series. I have to admit that I pictured Abby as Krysten right from the start and this book would be a good fit for a TV show or movie. Thank you to Crown Publishing for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.
I am a big fan of Marvel's Jessica Jones, so when I saw that the awesome Krysten Ritter wrote a book I was very interested in reading it. Great build of the suspense throughout this book. The tone was dark and moody but that is what worked for this story. Good but somewhat familiar thriller/suspense storyline. The main character Abby was literally unraveling before our eyes throughout this book and I found that fascinating. I don't even know how she managed to function at times. Nice debut effort by Ms. Ritter. I hope she continues writing.
Fun fact: I love, love, love Krysten Ritter. I mean, Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23?! Seriously, one of the funniest shows ever! I've watched each episode a million times but I still find them hilarious. Anyhow, when I hear that Krysten was releasing her debut book, I was BEYOND excited; however, I will admit that I was a bit weary. I love Krysten as an actress but could I love her as a writer? That's the question I had hanging around in my head prior to starting Bonfire. The result? Bonfire managed to 100% WOW me! Not only was the storyline suspenseful and intricate but also the writing was rich and enveloping. Basically, I was hooked from the first word until the very last. One of my favorite parts of Bonfire was the characters. They were complex and an interesting mix, or medium, between likable and unlikable - complicated I guess is the best way to describe them. Abby Williams, the narrator, is the prime example of this. When we're first introduced to Abby, she's not looking forward to returning to her hometown; however, a small part of her wants to go back, to show everyone that she isn't the meek, shy girl she used to be. I feel that the feelings Abby felt were representative of anyone returning to their hometown under a guise of mixed feelings. It was interesting to see how Abby fit back into her old small town, mixing with the town's golden boy, the former mean girls, and the class burnout. It caused for her to experience a wide amount of character growth, and while some of her decisions, especially in regards to the town's biggest mystery, caused frustration, I was still always dying to know what she would do next, and more importantly, what it would mean for Abby's future. When I first saw the cover for Bonfire I was expecting an intense read, and that's exactly what I received. What I loved the most about the plot was how intricate it was. There was corruption, mysteries involving the town's beloved factory and former it-girl, and even a rebirth of sorts in the case of Abby. I don't want to say too much about the plot as it's something you just need to experience for yourself. But I will say I loved it. It kept me on my toes. It shocked me time and time again. Some parts of it were hard to handle, but given the stunning, well written way in which Krysten presented the tale it was well worth it. In all, Bonfire is a spectacular read! Krysten has become not only a favorite actress of mine but now a favorite author as well. I simply can't wait to see what she writes next! Grade: A+
Such an addicting thriller! Totally recommend for fans of Paula Hawkins or Gillian Flynn. This mystery will keep you up all night!
This book is just plain awful. Stupid plot, thin characterazation, idiotic ending. That chemical co pollutes reservoir and nobody tests till hometown girl appears is ludicrous. No real mystery, just nancy drew prowl thru high school years. And every thing gets described in color. Best for hormone giddy teen girls.