The Burn Journals

The Burn Journals

by Brent Runyon


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The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon

Fans of Thirteen Reasons Why, Running with Scissors and  Girl, Interrupted will be entranced by this remarkable true story of teenage despair and recovery

In 1991, fourteen-year-old Brent Runyon came home from school, doused his bathrobe in gasoline, put it on, and lit a match.

He suffered third-degree burns over 85% of his body and spent the next year recovering in hospitals and rehab facilities. During that year of physical recovery, Runyon began to question what he’d done, undertaking the complicated journey from near-death back to high school, and from suicide back to the emotional mainstream of life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400096428
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/11/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 110,848
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

Brent Runyon is a writer and regular contributor to public radio programs, including This American Life, where portions of his award-winning memoir, The Burn Journals, first aired. Booklist praised The Burn Journals as “the defining book of a new genre, one that gazes unflinchingly at boys on the emotional edge.” In his novels Maybe and Surface Tension, he retains that raw honesty. Mr. Runyon lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

When seventh period is finally over, I run to my locker and put all my books inside. I won’t need them anymore. I grab my lock-picking set and a spare Ace of Spades that I have lying around.
At the end of the hallway, I can see Stephen talking to Megan, the girl we both have a crush on. I walk up to them and say hi. She smiles at me and I try to smile back. He looks a little suspicious.
I don’t really want to say anything, I don’t want to tell them what I’m going to do. I hand him the Ace of Spades and say, “Good-bye,” and I walk away. I hope they’ll be happy together.
I see my friend Jake at his locker and give him the lock-picking set. “Use them wisely,” I say, and head toward the bus.
Laura walks with me down D hall. She says, “Hey, I heard you set that fire in gym class.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to set myself on fire.” She stops at her locker, and I keep walking.

On the bus ride home, I sit by myself. I lean my head against the cold glass window and try not to think about all the stupid things I’ve done, all the bad things I’ve done, and all the pain I’ve caused everyone.

My brother is playing basketball outside the house when I get home. He’s shooting free throws.
I rebound the ball for him and throw it back. I don’t want to take any shots. I tell him the whole story, about what I did and what they’re going to do to me. I don’t tell him what I’m going to do to myself.
When I’m done talking, he says, “That sucks,” and I go inside the house. I don’t have to write a note anymore. Craig knows everything.
I walk out to the shed to get the gas can. I bring it inside to the bathroom at the top of the stairs because that’s the room with the most locks. I go back downstairs and get the matches from the kitchen.

I take off all my clothes and put on the pair of red boxers with glow-in-the-dark lips that my mom bought for me at the mall last weekend. I bring my bathrobe into the shower and I pour the gasoline all over it. The gas can is only about a quarter full, but it seems like enough.
I step into the bathtub and I put the bathrobe over my shoulders. It’s wet and heavy, but there’s something kind of comforting about the smell, like going on a long car trip. I hold the box of matches out in front of me in my left hand.
I take out a strike-anywhere match and hold it against the box.
Should I do it?
Yes. Do it.
I strike the match, but it doesn’t light. Try again.
I light the match. Nothing happens. I bring it closer to my wrist and then it goes up, all over me, eating through me everywhere. I can’t breathe. I’m screaming, “Craig! Craig!”
I fall down. I’m going to die. I’m going to find out what death is like. I’m going to know. But nothing’s happening.
This hurts too much. I need to stop it. I need to get up. I stand. I don’t know how I stand, but I do, and I turn on the shower. I’m breathing water and smoke. I unlock the door and open it. My hand is all black. I walk out. There’s Craig with Rusty, our dog, next to him. They have the same expression on their faces.
Craig yells something and runs downstairs. I think he’s calling 911. I’m following him. He hands me the phone and runs off. There’s a woman on the phone asking me questions. I try to tell her what’s happened, but my voice sounds choked and brittle. There’s something wrong with my voice.
The woman on the phone says the fire trucks and ambulances are on their way. Somehow she knows my address. Craig is gone now, gone to get Mom, and Rusty is hiding somewhere. Smoke is coming from the bathroom upstairs and I can see that the whole room has turned black. I look down and see my flesh is charred and flaking and the glow-in-the-dark boxer shorts are burnt into my skin.
The woman on the phone says everything is going to be all right, and I believe her. She has a nice voice. She keeps asking me if I’m still on fire and I say, “I don’t think so.”
I’m walking around the kitchen, waiting for the ambulance to come. I can see my reflection in the microwave. Where’s my hair? Where did my hair go? Is that my face?
We used to put marshmallows in the microwave. We used to watch them get bigger and bigger and then shrink down.
“Oh God, just tell them to get here, just tell them to get here, okay?”
She says, “It’s okay. They’re coming. They’re almost there.”
“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay, that’s okay.”
I can hear the sirens in the distance now.
I say, “I want to lie down. I’m going to lie down.” It hurts to talk. I think there’s something wrong in my throat.
“You can’t lie down.”
“But I have to.”
“Okay, you can lie down.”
The men are here. The firemen are here. They’re putting me on a plastic sheet. They say I’m going to be okay. One of them puts something over my face. That feels good. That feels so good. The cold air feels so good going into my lungs.
What are they talking about? What are they saying? They’re giving me a shot. They say it’s going to make the pain go away. Make the pain go away.
I’m looking at the faces of all the men who are gathered around me. Their eyes are so blue and so clear.
I turn my head and see Craig in the front hall. He’s yelling and punching the walls. He’s angry.
And my mom is here, and she’s smiling and saying she loves me, and her eyes, which are green like my eyes, are the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

Reading Group Guide

The Burn Journals describes a particular kind of youthful male desolation better than it has ever been described before, by anyone.” –Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s reading and discussion of Brent Runyon’s The Burn Journals, the provocative, raw, and unsparing account of Runyon’s long journey back to teenage life after a botched suicide attempt leaves him physically and emotionally shattered.

1. This memoir is unique in that Runyon chooses not to annotate his account from an adult perspective but rather to let his fourteen-year-old voice stand alone. How does this lack of analysis and retrospective insight shape the narrative? What effect does the detached, primitive, sometimes belligerent nature of this teenage voice have on the story?

2. Brent’s description of his mother’s eyes moments after the disaster–“her eyes . . . are the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen” [p. 18]–echoes studies on newborns’ reactions to their mothers’ eyes moments after birth. To what extent is Brent’s suicide an attempt to revert to an infantile state in which he will be unconditionally loved? Are all suicides overtures toward rebirth?

3. How does Brent’s nebulous adolescent understanding of his own sexuality play into his depression? Do his thwarted attempts at intimacy with women and girls read as comical or disturbing? Does he mature in this area over the course of the memoir?

4. Brent recounts several episodes that seem to suggest a lack of sensitivity on the part of his parents to his violent tendencies, even after his release from rehab. In one, his father employs Brent’s reluctant help in bludgeoning a possum to death. In another, his father buys Brent boxing gloves and allows Brent to knock him to the ground. In a third, Brent ponders his childhood practice of mutilating toys, a habit obviously unnoticed by his parents: “Poor Papa Smurf. . . . Sometimes we used to light a can of Lysol and spray him with fire. . . . We also tore the arms off of Cobra Commander and put his head in a vise. We took Duke, from G.I. Joe, and twisted him around until his spine snapped. . . . And then we set them on fire too. Why did we do that?” [p. 288] Are these passages intended to impugn Brent’s parents on some level? Or are they meant simply to pinpoint Brent’s growing awareness of violence and its ramifications? Why do you think he includes them?

5. Brent struggles to find a means to articulate his sorrow and regret over the disaster to his family. Yet when presented with family therapy specifically tailored to facilitating this kind of dialogue, Brent becomes reticent, unyielding, and sarcastic. Why?

6. Brent writes of his burn treatments: “There are two kinds of people in this world. People that have to lie on their stomachs for ten days straight and people that don’t. And the lucky bastards that don’t have to lie on their stomachs for ten motherfucking days are the ones that get to skate through life like they have their own personal Zamboni smoothing the way for them” [p. 82]. How much responsibility does Brent accept for his injury? To what extent does he blame fate?

7. Brent’s mantra, “I hate myself,” continues well after the fire. How much of this can be attributed to the normal pains of adolescence? What are the signs that his self-loathing is abating or shifting by the time he returns to school?

8. Some of the memoir’s most excruciating dialogues occur in the context of psychological evaluation. In the presence of a family therapist, Brent has a bizarre argument with his mother over whether five or ten minutes of silence have passed [p. 136]. During a session with two psychologists, Brent accuses one of the doctors of saying “scarcastic” instead of “sarcastic” [p. 216]. Do these episodes suggest true madness, or does Brent purposefully warp his ostensible grasp on reality in order to get attention? What sort of agony do you think therapy sessions like those Brent describes can invoke for a teenage boy?

9. In Darkness Visible, his memoir of mental illness, William Styron writes, “Depression is a disorder of mood, so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self–to the mediating intellect–as to verge close to being beyond description. It thus remains nearly incomprehensible to those who have not experienced it in its extreme mode.” Does The Burn Journals succeed in rendering Runyon’s depression comprehensible to readers? Is this book an appropriate cautionary or helpful tale for depressed teenagers to read?

10. One reviewer wrote of The Burn Journals: “[Brent] isn’t spared the sight of the pain felt by his family and friends, as he would have been had he died. In accepting the burden of the anguish he caused them, he finds healing and a new depth to his relationships” [“The Burn Journals A Gripping Must-Read” by Karyn Saemann, The Capital Times, November 5, 2004]. Is this an accurate assessment? If so, what evidence is there of Brent’s healing? Which relationships are deepened and renewed?

11. When Brent’s parents ask him if he is involved in the occult, Brent is overwhelmed and hurt by their ignorance of him. “They know nothing about me. Nothing at all. . . . Why don’t they love me? Why don’t they take care of me? Why don’t they act like I’m their son? . . . I can’t believe how little they know me” [p. 192]. Does Brent ever convey this sense of betrayal to them? Does this issue of misinterpretation reach a denouement?

12. When Brent is given permission to forgo his plastic face mask when he goes back to school, why does he hesitate?

13. Which of Brent’s caregivers makes the most lasting difference in his recovery process? Why?

14. The passages that describe Brent’s burn care routine in the hospital are graphic, even grisly. What role do they play in the memoir?

15. When a nurse suggests that Brent ought to be grateful for his lapses in memory after the fire, Brent’s mental response is, “I don’t want to forget anything. I don’t care if they are terrible memories. They’re mine” [p. 86]. To what extent is Brent’s journey out of darkness a process of reclamation? What societal forces could cause an upper-middle-class white teenager to feel disenfranchised or in need of reclaiming what is rightfully his?

Customer Reviews

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The Burn Journals 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 201 reviews.
Igordova More than 1 year ago
The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon was an incredible book. All 325 pages of the book were so important, they were bits of his life. This book is unique, I feel like it gives people an inside to what people with depression go through and how they deal with it. I really enjoyed that the author told it as it is, he didn't try and cover it with frosting. He told the true story and that takes a lot of courage. I don't think the author did anything to stray from the subject. I liked this book a lot, it opened up my eyes to I guess something that most people judge on, and I think it made me understand and be more open minded. I would say this book is appropriate for reading to people who are mature, it's not a light matter and you have to be ready for that. Parts of the book get a bit gruesome, so be prepared for that, but overall it's great!
Teresa Millmore More than 1 year ago
if anyone is struggling with their self confidence just reading this book made me realize how everyhing we live for is more than meets the eye. this great book covered every aspect and was a true eyeopener
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was on my nook under the heading "teen "angst". I had not seen that particular selection before and decided to check out tge selectiohs. I'm glad i did. This book is written in the first person and follows a teenage boy who tries to kill himself with fire. What a frightening thought! I can't imagine the pain of the fire and the pain of reliving it in the words written on these pages. As a mom, it scares me to think that such a thing is possible. That such a talented child would think that death was the only option. It was heartbreaking to feel the pain in Brent's words; to imagine the pain his parents suffered watching him go through recovery. My only reason for not giving this book 5 stars is because of the frequent f-bombs. This book was both easy to read and hard to read at the same time. Sad, scary.....impossible to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Burn Journals is an amazing read. Brent takes you through every emotion from extreme sadness and depression, and the desire to just be loved. The Burn Journals is heart wrenching,true,funny,and amazingly written!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book! The Burn Journals is a very moving story about Brent, a fourteen year-old who tries to commit suicide by setting himself on fire. The book reveals what he was feeling before, during and after the incident. It also describes his recovery for the following year. Some of the details make me cringe, but they are important to the story because they help me understand what Brent had to endure. This story is fascinating because it is written from Brent¿s point of view. His comments make you realize that it could happen to almost anybody. Before the fire, nobody suspected that Brent was unhappy. He seemed like a completely normal teenager. This is why teachers and parents need to read this book: You can never know for sure how a person is feeling. Teenagers will love this book because it is a moving story about someone just like them.
Sierra_0001 More than 1 year ago
This book is a firsthand look into a teenage boy's head. There is a lot of thought and emotion put into this book, such as going through all the hospitals and theripists and puberty and the feeling of being left behind because of a bad "mistake". I would read this book again any day, and reccomend it to tons of people!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brianna Elder January 28, 2016 Brown K- H9 Period 5 Fifteen year old Brent Runyon is a high school delinquent who causes much problems on his Middle School campus. One day he accidentally sets a locker on fire at gym, and decides to kill himself the same day. When he sets himself on fire in his own shower, he immediately regrets it and runs downstairs to his parents for help. When the ambulance arrives Runyon is diagnosed with third degree burns, and haves to go to a burn unit where he has to recover all his skin. Runyon takes the readers through his recovery emotionally and physically at the burn unit, and with his parents; meeting new people and facing new challenges. I don’t recommend this book, because it is very bland and doesn’t really give deep details on Runyon’s thoughts. It is a great story overall, but the way the author wrote it made many parts of the book awkward. On the other hand I do recommend that you should read the book, because it shows you the process of what it is like to heal in a burn unit. Runyon problems gives people an idea of what people face with after their whole life changing before them, and how they conquer it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with u person under me. Im a seventh grader and i approve this message lol ^.^
KonekoVampire More than 1 year ago
I absolutely adore this book. I only have four top favorite books of all time, and this is one of them. It made me cry at some times, and I feel such a connection with the author. It amazes me how this is a true story, and Brent lived through all of that. This book made me think, because of all the emotion Brent poured into it, which is why I cried sometimes. I loved the writing style too. Deffinetly something to read. But it's NOT for younger readers. It's one of the most perverted, suicidal, and bad-word filled books I've ever read. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't read it.
BookwormShel More than 1 year ago
An absolute must-read that is gripping from page 1 to page 374. This book is packed with emotions and angst that apply to not only teens and adolescents but adults as well. The lessons Brent learns in the hospital and out of the hospital are applicable to many aspects of life. The Burn Journals is a true representation of what it's like to be depressed, and what it's like to realize how you've hurt other people. I highly recommend this book. And to the teacher who said the book is too mature for junior high-ers...this all happened to Brent Runyon as a junior high school student, so it's obviously not too mature.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this not expecting much, but there was a difference in this book that seperated it from others- I realized that is was because this book is totally HONEST. I could relate to the emotions and I really felt like I was inside Runyon's head. This was a unique topic and I enjoyed it more than I have with many books- and I read a TON. I wouldn't pass this up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heartbreaking story of triumph. Love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The main character, Brent, is a fourteen year old boy who is very dour and tentative. He attempts committing suicide because he made a stupid decision to throw a burning shirt into somebody's locker. When Brent is in the hospital, he flirts with a few of his nurses and asks his mom to put up posters of half naked models in his hospital room. Brent fantasizing over his posters of models is emphasized in the quote: “[...] both of the same girl in the same skimpy underwear, but one is taken from the back and one is taken from the front. She's so sexy”(110). While he is in the burn unit, his parents are a major impact on him because they are there for him through all of his pain and accomplishments in getting better. His family is very supportive in his recovery and continue to visit him when they can. Their unfeigned attention is revealed in the quote: “Mom is wheeling me down and Dad and Craig are going to meet us there”(133). The main conflict in this story is Brent having to deal with his burns on his body. He deals with many emotions especially when he decides he wants to kill himself. As a result, he gets many burns and has to stay in the hospital for many months. What I liked about this book is that the author implicates real life problems in society with young teens and teaches a lesson as well. The author sends a message that no matter what happens in life, the good or the bad, we should never take anything for granted. Brent made a decision that was not smart and tried to end his life which would have put his family through misery and they never thought he would do that to himself. During a family session, his mother breaks down because she loves her son a lot and feels she could've done better to be there for him. What I did not like about the book is that Brent is expressed as a recalcitrant character who does not like to talk about his incident and is ungrateful for the support he receives from everyone. He refuses to speak at his therapy sessions because he doesn't want to admit to what he did. I would recommend this book to others because it teaches an amazing lesson and leads to a great ending of Brent's journey.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SamanthaShenoda More than 1 year ago
In the book "The Burn Journals" by Brent Runyon, the fundamental character in this book is Brent Runyon. Brent is a very emotional person but doesn't really show it in the story. He always keeps his thoughts to himself and always ends up saying the opposite of what he really wants to say. The internal conflict in the story is how Brent struggles to let his emotions out and how he deals with his depression. The external conflict is how he struggles to let anyone in and open up to his parents and the doctors at thee hospital and staying in the hospital for months and to go through different procedures to recover from his injuries. As a result of the conflict Brent learns a lot from staying in the hospital and going to therapy. Also from recovering and being comfortable in his own skin. Two important plots events that make up the rising action is why Brent tried committing suicide. How he always got in trouble and setting his friends shirt on fire and getting expelled. Another event that led him is putting himself on fire is how he didn't want to get caught. What I liked about this book is that Brent really regretted trying to commit suicide. In other books usually if someone tries to commit suicide and it doesn't work, they usually don't regret it after, but Brent learned from his journey being in the hospital and he thought what he did was wrong and how it can affect the people who care about him. An example from this book is when he cries to his mom apologizing for what he did and what he put his family through. Another example is how he actually learned from doing what he did. When he looked in the mirror and know that's how he will look from now on, he learned that what he did wasn't a joke but also learned to be comfortable going out. I recommend this book to others because it was very inspiring. It talks about what someone had to go through as a teen being depressed and trying to commit suicide by putting himself on fire.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Burn Journals written by Brent Runyon has a 14-year-old boy (Brent) who tries to kill himself because of a locker fire that he caused and he didn’t want to face the consequences. He lights himself on fire but because the fire was so unbearable. He turns the water on and puts out the fire leaving him burned all over. His brother Carl, calls the fire department where Brent is rushed to the hospital where he stays for a couple of months to get better. He goes hospital to hospital where he learns not to take things for granted and to appreciate what he has in life. Brent is a typical teenager who thinks the world is against him and suffers from depression. Brent has a mother, father, and brother who all try to support him but they get annoyed because Brent still gives them attitude. The internal conflict would be the amount of depression in leading him to set himself on fire. The external conflict would be the many regrets he has through out the story and how he wished he could have fixed them when they were first addressed. One plot event was when Brent was finally able to go home. He was at home for about a month but then had to go to another hospital for more treatment. Another plot event was when they told him he was going back to his high school, but instead sent him to a school for suicidal and depressed kids. I found this book fascinating because it had a heavy affect on me. What I liked about the book is how he would explain what he was feeling in the most uncomfortable situations making it a bit humorous. Brent would speak his mind even when people would yell and judge him. He didn’t care what people thought of him, even if everyone and everything were against him. I would highly recommend this book to others because it relates to other teenagers just like him that go through life depressed or suicidal. Not all teens are having thoughts of killing themselves. Kids are getting bullied everyday and they just wish it could all stop. If teens are thinking about ending their life, they should read this book. For some inspiration and a glimpse of how it could be if they attempt suicide. Hopefully they could put themselves in his shoes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The main character in The Burn Journals, by Brent Runyon, is Brent himself when he is a fourteen-year-old in his last year of middle school. His favorite color is black, feels like a failure, is depressed, and has tired multiple times to kill himself, but never seems to cut deep enough; these are all contributing factors that lead towards the upcoming conflict. The rising action is fast paced, and starts one day while Brent is at school when, accidentally, he sets some gym clothes in a locker on fire by throwing his friend Adam’s flaming matches inside the locker when not knowing how to get rid of them. The next day, he comes in to school, and the fire department is there, examining the inside of the burnt locker. Brent and Adam start to panic; the fire marshal says that they are taking fingerprints to find out who set the fire and expelling them from the school. Brent is the person responsible and doesn’t think he can tell his parents that he is going to be expelled, so he decides to do something else. Calming Adam down, Brent tells Adam his plan to write a note confessing it was his fault and not Adam’s and then kill himself. I loved this book because the story is told from the point of view of a teenager who is going through a supremely difficult time while surrounded by multitudes of supporting family and friends. Brent’s story of recovery is inspiring, especially after all the hardship he goes through in the beginning. The Burn Journals has an amazing point of view, because one is seeing the other side of suicide attempts that depressed teens never consider the consequences of from a teen who tried. I would recommend this book to mature readers of any age; it is a very well written book with an inspirational story of trauma to recovery that makes you want to keep the pages turning until the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first read this for a class assignment. I thought it was really interesting and finished before anyone else in my group.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brent Runyon’s autobiographical novel “The Burn Journals”, lets us explore the aftermath of his suicide attempt and his struggle to come to terms with his depression and the impact it has on his entire family. After lighting himself on fire, Brent goes through a painful year of physical and mental recovery. Along with the surgeries, skin grafts, physical therapy, and the Jobst garments, comes the challenges of coping with his negative emotions, and learning to express his anger and anxiety to himself and his family. I believe that the author’s intentions are simply to provide a window into the mind of someone going through depression. He does this by using a stream of consciousness narration where he tells us the conversations he has with himself in his head. Early in his recovery he reflects upon his fateful decision, “I keep thinking about it. I was in the bathroom and I had the gas can and the matches and I sat on the toilet. That’s when I should’ve realized how stupid I was being. That’s when I should’ve stopped it. […] I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish. I wish I’d stopped. But I didn’t.”(123-124) Brent’s internal conversation continues throughout the whole story of his healing process. When he’s finally able to return to school, his internal conversation reflects his more hopeful outlook. “This is it. This is it. The bus is going to take me to school and the whole thing is going to change. I’m going to walk into school and I’m going to be a different person, and they’re all going to see I’m a different person.”(373) I liked this book because it expressed the irrational and anxious decisions of someone in that state of mind. Before Brent sets himself on fire, he’s vacillates, “Should I do it? Yes. Do it.”(20) But once he does it, he immediately regrets it and apologizes to the 9-1-1 operator “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”(21) Another thing I liked about this book is that he showed how difficult it was to talk to his parents about his thoughts and feelings, because like many teenagers, discussing his emotions is alien to him and feels threatening. When he’s pressed by his parents’ questions, he breaks down “’I don’t know what to tell you. You’re asking all the wrong questions.’”(225) and he thinks “I can’t believe how little they know me.”(226) This reaction to their questions during a family therapy session shows how he desperately wishes they would know how he feels without having to tell them. I would definitely recommend this book, especially to young adults who can relate to the distance they often experience in relationship to their parents and siblings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book, The Burn Journals, written by Brent Runyon tells the story of how he tried to commit suicide at the age of fourteen. His attempt to suicide ended with his body having severe burns and having to spend the next year in hospitals instead of going to school along with all of his friends. This complicated journey of recovering as a teenage boy shows the readers how the author suggests that thinking about your actions is important. This is directly related to his situation because just a couple of months after his accident, he had forgotten the reason why he had done it. He repeats several times throughout the book how he deeply regrets his actions that day and tries to think about why he did it. At one point in the story Runyon begins to think, “Maybe I did it because I hit my head when I was six. Or maybe because my parents named me Brent, which sounds like burnt. Or maybe because of all the school stuff. Or maybe I was just depressed,” (page 197). This quote shows how confused he is about it. Some of the reasons sound unreasonable, but it’s all because of the problems the author was mentally going through. In the book his long and frustrating journey is shown. This story is very inspiring and can relate to many people who have gone through a deep depression. It also shows an interesting story through the victim’s point of view. Runyon explains all of his journey in a sincere way and just as any other teenager would. An example of this is the hard decision of taking the path back to the main focus of his life after everyone has found out about the suicidal attempt and having to walk around with scars from his burns. The author makes it clear that it was a hard decision but knows he must continue on with his life after the accident. He also talks about the depression he feels when he realizes how much he has hurt his family by this action he took. Brent soon realizes to appreciate what life has to offer him and make the most of it. The Burn Journals is a book I would recommend to others because of the way it tells a story that gives a great meaning about appreciating life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Burn Journals is focused on a boy named Brent Runyon who attempts to commit suicide by drenching his bathrobe with gasoline and lighting himself with matches. Fourteen year-old Brent suffers from this incident and spends the next 8 months in the hospital recovering. After his recoveries in the hospital, he attends rehab facilities and during Brent’s recovery he wonders what lead him to take such life threating actions. I believe the author’s purpose of the book is to inform readers what teens undergo through when having thoughts of suicide in times of depression. “You're all trying to figure out what went wrong inside my head. You’ll never crack the code that's inside my head. You'll never get into my castle. You'll never even get past the gate.” Brent is going through a stage where he’s trying to conceal himself from everyone and doesn’t want anyone one to know why he tried to kill himself. “The sad thing is, after a while, it starts to feel like home. It does, doesn't it?” A girl from Michigan wrote this to Brent and she’s going through depression as well and she’s telling Brent how being in depression feels like home after a period of time. These examples display what teens experience when in the process of trying to recover from their suicidal attempt. The story is very detailed and explains Brent well enough to the extent were you get to know him like a friend. For instance, when he’s describing people you get the sense he’s someone who gets annoyed easily and likes to take things easy. A negative side about the book is the use of cuss words and sexual thoughts which I strongly dislike. I also dislike how you don’t get to see other point of views like how his family feels about what Brent has done in deeper thoughts. For example, when they visit the psychologist you don’t get to hear much of what his parents and brother are thinking because while they’re talking you are listening to the thoughts of Brent. Another part in the book were you here Brent speaking in his mind frequently is during the events and visits with his friends before the incident. I would recommend reading this book because it shows the concern of what teens might be thinking in times of distress. It could help others persuade themselves not to commit suicide if they were having any thoughts on the topic.
pangchey More than 1 year ago
The Burn Journals is a true story about a teenager, Brent Runyon, who attempts to commit suicide by lighting himself on fire. He immediately puts himself out by turning on the shower and walks out while his brother calls 911. He was admitted into Children’s National Medical Center in Washington where he meets very kind nurses and doctors. He was in and out of many other hospitals and mental rehabilitation centers. The lesson of this phenomenal novel was to tell the readers, usually young adolescents, that you should think before you do because the consequences can affect your life forever. Runyon ends up regretting lighting himself on fire because he ends up unable to move the way he did. Whenever he is asked why he did it, he says he doesn’t know, because he doesn’t because now he realizes how stupid he was. I really liked this novel. This book can relate to a teen going through hard times and I related to some of his tough times. This shows the real side of teen angst. Another thing I liked about this book was the perspective. Runyon wrote in a lot of detail to make it fun to follow but not too much to make it boring. One thing I disliked about this book was how there were so many inappropriate moments in the book. I would recommend this book to a mature reader since it shows the life of a REAL teenager and what he went through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon was a beautiful and eye-opening book. The book starts off with his (the author’s) memory at school. After attempting suicide, the author left no detail behind regarding his stay at burn care. He also added all of his thoughts in the book, almost allowing us to feel as if we were him. If there’s anything I learned from this book, expressing your thoughts and problems is a great way to remove stress. For example, when he said, “When I… when I tried to hurt myself before […] That wasn’t the first time that I tried to do something like that,” in a scene about quarter into the book, tears were coming out of my eyes, knowing that he’d finally accepted the fact that he had to tell his mother. Every page had detail that was worth noticing. Sometimes hilarious and sometimes tear-jerking, Brent Runyon wrote his horrible experience and published it. Perhaps to warn other teenagers how terrifying of an experience attempting suicide is. Brent Runyon wrote down all of the pain he felt, as if to make the reader feel the pain he did. The author made it seem as if this was all a fictional story about a young boy who attempted suicide. This way of writing made me feel as if I was the one who was who was burned. The content was great and honest, perhaps, a little too honest at times. Some parts of the book felt uncomfortable, yet hilarious. The scenes where he “thinks about people” made laugh hysterically. Secondly, the book made me think about what others are thinking, and how they feel, like in the beginning of the book, the author felt horribly stressed, yet nobody knew. He attempted suicide and nobody expected it. Finally, my eyes were opened as to what happens when you attempt suicide. Everybody in your circle, such as friends and family, would be horrified at the fact that you committed suicide. I strongly recommend reading this book as it opened my eyes to suicide. MHS 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
      The Burn Journals is the true  story of Brent Runyon. Told from the perspective of his 14-year-old mind, the story begins as he comes  home from school one day and decides that killing himself is better than facing the wrath of his parents. He puts on his robe, soaked in gasoline, and sets himself on fire, regretting his decision almost instantly. He walks out the bathroom door  and yells to his brother runs to call 911, rushing Brent to the hospital as soon as possible. The story follows Brent through his treatments,   stays at different hospitals and rehab centers, therapist after therapist, and gradual recovery.        Brent gradually gets over his depression and grows and learns from everything that happens to him. One major theme of the book is being accepting of yourself as you grow up, and learning to appreciate life. Another major theme of the book is the innate will of people  to survive and fight against things holding them back. Overall this story is great to help young teens learn to accept themselves. It also teaches them not to make permanent decisions on temporary feelings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon takes place in Falls Church, Virginia during 1991. Fourteen-year-old Brent is a troubled and a suicidal kid, whose life is starting to take a toll on him. Brent hates himself because his best friend’s crush likes him instead of his friend. His recent suicides: sliced wrists, taking pill, and hanging himself have been caused by his failures in life and this leaves him feeling stupid. He feels even worse after he sets a shirt on fire in the boy’s locker room and throws it into a random locker. When the school finds out it was a him and threaten to take disciplinary action, Brent’s suicidal thoughts begin to augment. When Brent gets home he puts on his robe and stands in the shower, then pours gasoline on himself and lights a match. Brent suffers third degree burns on 85% of his body and spends the next year recovering. The Burn Journals take us through Brent’s journey, frustration, and feelings towards others throughout the next year. The author’s intention was to write everything down so he could free himself of the dark memories and the guilt that came from what he had done to his family.  “ ‘ I’m sorry, Mom,” (115) conveys that he is regretful of what he has done. When he told his mom that that wasn’t the first time he tried to kill himself he felt sorry that he wanted to do that. He expressed that he was guilty and cried with his mom. I like The Burn Journals because it gave me insight on a near-death experience. “This hurts to much. I need to stop it. I need to get up. […] I’m breathing water and smoke.” (17) vividly explains what Brent is thinking when he is in pain and on fire. Brent feels that it hurts to much and he needs to find a way to stop the fire. I also liked that the book gives a lot of details. For example, “ I hurt. I need something. Lisa gives me something to stop hurting, and it’s working, but now I can’t see, everything is double,” (32) asserts the detail because after he took the drug he saw double. Furthermore, I like the book because it doesn’t tell you why Brent committed suicide. “ ‘I don’t remember.’ That’s true. I don’t remember. I don’t remember anything about myself back then,” (135) show us that Brent doesn’t exactly remember why he did this. The author doesn’t tell us why he committed suicide, but he let it be interpretive. What I disliked about the book was the abrupt ending, I felt that it needed to go on and demonstrate what happen after Brent walks through the halls. Overall, I would recommend this book because it lets you experience life through someone else’s eyes, a suicidal teenager. It demonstrated frustration and anger on a whole new level. Brent Runyon didn’t sugar coat his experience and was extremely bunt. The Burn Journals allows the reader to experience his pain and teaches some of the most important things in life, to live.