How to Set a Fire and Why


How to Set a Fire and Why Fiction
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Product Description

"How to Set a Fire and Why is a blistering, singular, devastating novel by Jesse Ball ("A young genius who hits all of the right notes." --Chicago Tribune) about a teenage girl who has lost everything and will burn anything. Lucia has been kicked out of school, again, this time for stabbing a boy in the neck with a pencil. Her father is dead; her mother is in a mental institute; and she's living in a garage-turned-bedroom with her aunt. Making her way through the world with only a book, a Zippo lighter, and a pocket full of stolen licorice, Lucia spends her days riding the bus to visit her mother in The Home, avoiding the landlord who hates her, and following the only rule that makes any sense: Don't Do Things You Aren't Proud Of. When Lucia starts at Whistler High it seems no different from the schools that came before: girls play field hockey, chasing the ball like dogs, the school psychologist has beanbag chairs in her office, and detention means sitting silently surrounded by stupid people ("I am a veteran of detention"). But when Lucia discovers a secret Arson Club, she will do anything to be a part of it. With a biting wit and striking intelligence that she can't fully hide, Lucia animates her small-town life: the parties at an abandoned water park, visits to the 24-hour donut shop where her friend Lana's cousin works, the little island in the middle of a medical park where kids go to drink. As Lucia's fascination with the Arson Club grows, her chronicle becomes a riveting story of family, loss, misguided friendship, and destruction"--

Editorial Reviews

A troubled adolescent girl dreams of setting fire to the world. It starts with a stabbing and ends with a conflagration, and, in between, the novel never once telegraphs where it's going. Serial surrealist Ball (A Cure for Suicide, 2015, etc.) has been justly accused of a variety of experimental ploys, but you can't deny that when he delivers, it's never quite what you expected. In this stark epistolary novel, the author fully occupies the inner life of a teenage girl, Lucia Stanton, who is writing down her experiences. When we meet her, she's in the principal's office for stabbing a boy who touched her most treasured possession, her dead father's Zippo lighter. "So, I said, many times I said it, don't touch this lighter or I will kill you," she writes. "I think because I am a girl people thought I didn't mean it." Lucia lives with her kindly but destitute aunt in a converted garage with an overgrown garden. She makes predictions—not telling the future, she stresses 212;and writes them down in The Book of How Things Will Go. She's not as profane as Salinger's Holden Caulfield, but they share a certain aimlessness and cynicism about adults that rings true. Over the course of the novel, Lucia visits her ailing mother, gets high, flunks out of school, and ultimately falls in with some disillusioned young people in an Arson Club that dares her to start a fire. She also pens a brilliant pamphlet of the same title that's nested within the pages of her scribblings. "It takes you some years to become the person who can burn a building, so be it," she writes. "Carry your matches in your pocket, look at the faces of those who surround you in the crowd. Are we not all the same? Do we not all strive to simply have enough?" A brilliant portrayal of a girl who's quite aware of what she's going through. Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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