The town of Gypsum, Nevada is shutting down, now that the housing market has collapsed and the gypsum mine is inactive. Ben Stanley is lucky- he has a full ride to college. His friends and family aren't as fortunate, and Ben feels guilty about leaving them to start over on their own.As a last hurrah before everyone goes their seperate ways, Ben's best friends take him to the Gypsy family parked on the side of a highway for a card reading.
Lala White is a Gypsy girl, making extra money for her family with her fortune-telling skills. Her arranged marriage to a Gypsy boy is planned for three weeks after her eighteenth birthday, which is fast approaching. When Ben arrives for a card reading, however, she is immediately drawn to him.
Lala and Ben meet each other as both of them struggle with difficult changes. Ben must work through his guilt about leaving those he loves, and Lala must decide whether she wants to remain tied to her family-and their strict traditions- or set out on her own. Together, they .learn their own strength, the strenght of those they love, and the meaning of independence.
Burning is a light read with deep meaning. It explores the many nuances of love and belonging through various situations and perspectives, while entertaining the reader.
My favorite part of Burning was Lala's cultural background. In order to understand Lala's emotions, the reader must adapt their mindset to accept her family's male-dominated society and traditions. While these customs are foreign to many readers and seem very backwards in modern times, they are important to Lala as a character. A book's job is partly to expand the mind and worldview of the reader, and in this aspect the book is certainly a success.
While the symbolic nature of Lala's sexual rebellion gave the reader insight into her thoughts, I felt that it was overdone and detracted from other important parts of the book. Some of the scenes felt forced, as if the book hoped to attract teen readers by including mature subject matter. I would have prefered to see Lala find her own worth without any involvement from the males in her life.
All in all, Burning told a meaningful coming-of-age story, but occaisionally tried a little too hard to interest teen readers. I would recommend it to mature teen girls who enjoy romance and realistic fiction.