Author: Laurie Boyle Crompton
Genre: YA, contemporary, humor, tough stuff
Publication Date: February 1, 2013 (Sourcebooks Fire – North America)
Source: ARC from the Publisher
Summary: Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She’s desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark’s feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her “sext” photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now…
☆: 3.5/5 stars – could have been more polished, but otherwise, a great debut!
Review: Okay, so it takes awhile, but this book is a great way new way to talk about the “tough stuff” issue of sexting – but without constantly couching it in depression, suicide, bullying. That’s not to say that none of those things take place in this book (everything but suicide), but I have to give Crompton props for even going after the sexting issue with humor and wit and not just only the industry standard of aforesaid three holy ghosts of contemporary YA “tough stuff” books. While I feel like this book needed a bit more work in the editing department (more on that later), otherwise, I enjoyed “Blaze”, and would definitely recommend it as a good YA contemporary tough stuff issues book. I just wish there’d been the actual illustrations in the ARC! Oh well, that’s another reason to check out the final published copy, I suppose.
Okay, so, biggest pet peeve (even though this is a great impetus for Blaze’s personal journey/character development arc) – the slut-shaming. Blaze engages in so, so much of this the first third of the book to the point where I was starting to get seriously pissed. However, I know why Crompton did it – and the way she pulls it off by the final page is no less than brilliant.
However, I feel like there could have been less of it and we still would have gotten the message just fine. Slut-shaming is pretty much ingrained in our culture right now, yet sends the opposite baffling message of “sex sells” when it comes to any product that might be able to be sold that way. That sad cultural dichotomy/schizophrenia? Crompton definitely gets that across just fine. Which is the important part – getting the reader to think about that. Think about every nearly-nude model you’ve ever seen, then think about a girl who either enjoys sex or just makes a stupid decision and gets shamed for it.
At its heart, I think that’s what “Blaze” is about – in fact, Blaze’s little brother Josh even says it on page 308 of the ARC:
Josh shoves Dylan shaved head-first into Superturd and says to me, “What I don’t get is, why is it okay for models to show everything they’ve got?” He gestures to a towering billboard that features an underwear model with swirling hair. “But when a regular girl does the same thing, she’s suddenly accused of being a slut. Seems unfair, don’t you think?
To which Blaze replies,
I look up at the girl in the ad. Her exaggerated pose makes it seem as if she thinks her breasts are her source of power. “Who knows? Maybe she gets called a slut too. At least my my picture isn’t five stories high in the middle of Manhattan.”
Yeah, okay, so…slut-shaming, not entirely cured for Blaze. But it’s a start. And that’s always a win at the end of the day.
So, Usagi, you say, if you liked this book, why the 3.5 stars? What gives?
Well, there’s the aforementioned over-abundance of slut-shaming on Blaze’s part in the first third of the book. We already talked about that, so I won’t say it again. Generally, this needed one more draft in my opinion – the characters aside from Blaze and Josh (and his friends), and to a lesser extent, Mark the Shark and later, Quentin feel very 2D. Considering her bffs play such a big part in this whole debacle, they needed to be a little built up more, and they weren’t – that was incredibly disappointing. The world needed a bit of sharpening, too – there were scenes where I felt things were a bit out of focus in the sensory imagery/language department, and the world was a bit flimsy in those area. There was a bit more telling than showing scattered throughout the book. Those are all examples, but overall it just could have been a bit more polished. But who knows? It could be that this gets a good one last eyeball before it gets pubbed. I hope it does. All of that just brought down my enjoyment of the book.
Well, that and the lack of illustrations that WILL be available in the final copy.
What Crompton is really good at – tension. There’s a lot of it once things finally get going between Blaze and Mark, but even before then, with Mom and Dad, there’s just enough to keep momentum. Tension is what makes or breaks a book, and Crompton improves dramatically throughout the book. That was impressive, and I like that a lot.
And, even with excessive slut-shaming on Blaze’s part, she knows how to develop a good, layered MC. The personal journey arc that Blaze is given is no less than massive, and yet, she pretty much is able to hit all of the growth benchmarks. Crompton tortures the hell out of her, and I always love an author that isn’t afraid to kill her darlings repeatedly to get the desired emotional payoff. She makes her a ballsy, fun heroine once Blaze decides to get even, and that’s when things really started coming together for her as a character. She could have chosen the traditional YA contemp route of depression and eventually, suicide, but only minimally allows Blaze to indulge in depression, but does give her an extra heap of bullying to even things out. Not perfect, but still, a huge improvement over most YA contemp books that deal with this same subject. It’s a start.
So, final verdict? While this could have been better, I definitely enjoyed “Blaze”, and would recommend it over most of the other YA books that deal with sexting and its fallout. Just because there’s humor doesn’t make this book any less serious – if anything, the humor is what sets it apart from everything else that’s out there right now. But don’t take my word for it – “Blaze” will be out from Sourcebooks Fire on February 1, 2013 in North America, so be sure to check it out then!