Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan won the 2010 Morris Award. As most of you reading this blog probably already know, the Morris Award is, and always will be, dearly close to my heart, as I just finished my first ever selection committee work on the 2011 Morris Award Committee. I heard, first-hand, the way the Morris Award, which is given to a debut novel, changes authors lives. This year’s Morris reception was immensely moving to me, seeing our three authors in attendance (winner Blythe Wolstoon and honorees Lish McBride and Barbara Stuber) and hearing them talk about what writing meant in their lives and knowing that they the Morris Award recognition was going to make their publishing even a little bit easier, well, it was significant to me.
Knowing that Flash Burnout is in that company, that author L.K. Madigan had a similar journey with the Morris Award, that makes it special to me too. I think Morris books will always be in my favorites because, in a way, they represent all the struggle and hope and work that goes into getting a book published that very first time.
But Flash Burnout is also special to me because it’s a truly great novel. This book has high teen appeal and is a good read-alike for John Green and Maureen Johnson fans. Flash Burnout is highly recommended for teens aged 15 and up interested in realistic fiction and books about the artistic process.
Here are six things that make Flash Burnout special and worth your time:
1. a boy narrator. Yes, it’s true. Here’s a book with a funny, smart, realistic male lead character. Blake is a great lead character, you feel for him and care about his choices. He’s goofy and easily embarrassed and he likes girls and thinks a lot about sex and is perfect for all those boy readers out there some people don’t think exist. Blake has a realistic, believable arc in the book, you’re rooting for him even as he messes up. Blake is authentically BOY.
2. no werewolves/vampires/ghosts in sight. For all those times you need a breather from the world of the supernatural, where vampires sparkle and ghosts can’t wait to date you. (Don’t get me wrong, I love this genre. I love that teens love this genre.) Sometimes you just feel like a story that feels so possible… sometimes stories like that can really connect with your first-hand experience and mean something in your life. This is an outstanding example of contemporary, realistic YA fiction.
3. art. Another outstanding element of the story is the use of photography throughout. Not only does it provide a thoughtful metaphor for the story of Blake figuring out how he “frames” himself in the world, it also incorporates a lot of photography technique and terminology seamlessly into the plot. Blake is serious about photography as an art and a craft and it’s really good to see that passion and curiosity for creation and art in a YA novel. This is perfect for teens that are looking for stories about artists and any that might be interested in photography in general.
4. the tone. This book has a really unique tone that mixes serious stuff (Blake’s friend Marissa’s desperate search for her meth addicted mother) with funny stuff (Blake’s near constant thoughts about sex and girls) very well and very realistically. It makes for a really compelling read and the way Madigan masterfully balances the tone keeps you reading.
5. the not a triangle-triangle. Another huge thread in the book is how Blake feels torn between his romantic relationship with a girl named Shannon and his close friendship with Marissa. In lesser books, this would be some kind of very obvious triangle, with Shannon as a controlling bitch or Marissa as clearly not right for him, but Madigan goes past that – into a deeper more realistic place. Who hasn’t been in an awkward situation like that? Who hasn’t wondered if they’re with the right person, if a friend could be something more? This makes Blake’s feelings, his indecision and his confusion, so much more significant, so much more believable. It’s harder but it’s more true and, in my opinion, that’s something all YA novels should strive for, plot-wise.
6. the family ties. Yes, this is a book about a girl who is searching for her estranged, drug addicted mother. But wait, don’t despair that you’re reading yet another dysfunctional family YA novel. This is also the story of Blake’s family – Blake’s funny and loving and kind of weird and very supportive family. Blake’s parents trust him and support him and talk with him and want to help him but also believe he can make the right choices. IT’S KIND OF A MIRACLE OF AWESOME, basically.
Sounds pretty great doesn’t it? I hope you’re bumping it to the top of your to-be-read list. I hope you’re reserving a copy at your local library right now. Do you want a copy of your own? Then today is your lucky day! All you have to do is comment on this entry for a chance to win a paperback copy of L.K. Madigan’s Flash Burnout! (The lucky winner will be chosen at random.)
So why the sudden love for Flash Burnout, you might be asking? Sadly, last week L.K. Madigan announced that she was recently diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. This is a devastating blow to the YA fiction community. A group of librarian-blogger friends decided we’d all post something about Lisa’s work and offer giveaways of her books on our sites. Some of us (me included) are also making donations to the American Cancer Society in her name. You can visit these other posts and contests at GreenBeanTeenQueen, GalleySmith, YA Librarian Tales, and Stacked.
We thought this would be a good way to let Lisa know what her work has meant to us as teen librarians and lovers of YA lit. We also thought it would be a chance to get her books in more hands so more people could share the beauty and power of her words and work.
One of the goals of the Morris Committee is to help debut authors receive more recognition. I’m not sure I would have ever read Flash Burnout if it hadn’t been for the Morris. I am so glad I did. I hope you give Flash Burnout (or her second book The Mermaid’s Mirror, a delicious fantasy) a read so that you can share in the power of her work. For L.K. Madigan, I think (I hope) that this is the best way to spread some the blessings and gifts of her life – through getting her writing out far and wide.
Our thoughts are with you, Lisa, and we’re so grateful for your gifts.