Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tillmon County Fire

Pamela Ehrenberg, May 2009. In Ehrenberg's second YA novel, she develops the story of an arson in rural Tillmon County through the voices of eight teens. Cait is a bystander who observed a sort of confession; Aiden is born-again and out to make a point; Ben and Amelia are dating, but Ben is secretly gay and Amelia has an online flirtation with another guy; Lacey is pregnant and no one knows and she works at the hardware store where the lighter fluid was purchased; Albert is different from the other kids, probably autistic, and tries to help out where he shouldn't have; Jeremy is his twin brother and has somehow become friends with Aiden; and Rob lived in the house that's burned to the ground. The story of the arson, a hate crime directed at the new kid from New York who "started prancing and lisping around Tillmon County High School" over the winter, comes out slowly via kids' stories that don't seem to be related but eventually add up.

A story with so many voices can be repetitive or difficult to control, but Ehrenberg ably avoids these problems by sticking to a slim 171 pages and not repeating most of the action from multiple viewpoints. The book starts out just a little too slowly to make it perfect for reluctant readers, who may be drawn to it nevertheless by the red and black matchbook cover art and low page count. Recommended for all public libraries and most schools as well, although teens plotting violence can be a controversial subject.

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