“A phenomenal, haunting debut.”—Gillian Flynn
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.
Praise for Bonfire
“I burned through Krysten Ritter's hugely accomplished debut. Bonfire is dark, disturbing, and compulsively readable.”—Ruth Ware, bestselling author of The Woman in Cabin 10
“The Jessica Jones star makes an auspicious literary debut with Bonfire, spinning a suspenseful, psychologically gripping story.”—Entertainment Weekly
“In this adroit debut the star of Marvel's Jessica Jones proves her talents aren't limited to acting. . . . [Bonfire is] a thriller that delivers suspense, surprise and satisfaction.”—People
|Publisher:||Crown Publishing Group|
|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?