Year on Fire Book Review

Lies, privilege, and family drama combine into one explosive novel from Julie Buxbaum.

In Year on Fire, friend group Paige, Arch, and Immie have their lives turned upside down days before the first day of Junior year by a single kiss. When the girl’s bathroom is set aflame and rumors of arson start swirling, the three quickly realize that the lies that bind are wilder and bigger than a single stolen kiss.

Told in alternating points of view, this riveting novel boasts a well-paced plot, great character development, a slow burn romance complete with hands accidentally brushing (swoon), and mental health representation to top it all off.

The plot is a mix of solving the arsonist mystery, watching the pressure build to the point of an unraveling of one character, and the romantic drama that lies beneath the surface of many high school friend groups. The balance between the primary plot and the secondary plots is well done, as each chapter break and narrator switch leaves the reader both wanting more from that character, and excited to read to the next narrator.

Arch and Immie are twins that are equally alike and different, finishing each others sentences and yet still frequently being confounded by their other half. Paige is an only child living a lonely life with two overly successful individuals as her perennially absent parents. Ro has just been moved across that Atlantic ocean against his will, and serves to unknowingly risk worsening the splinter in the friendship group. The diverse characters and exploration of relatable themes such as first crushes, friendship fractures, coming out, hiding unsavory parts of one’s life, and forbidden romance are all given due course through these characters.

The slow burn romances are the result of forbidden love and the irresistible pull of finding someone you click with, and serve as a wonderful addition to this novel. The romantic aspects serve a backseat to the friendship plot, which is always refreshing, and it was also nice to see healthy teen relationships portrayed.

Though there’s plenty of depth, the novel never feels unbearably heavy, despite tackling heavy topics such as domestic abuse, isolation, self-harm, and more that I’ll leave out to avoid spoilers. The character that needs help regarding their mental health shows not only the danger of unchecked issues but also the empowerment that comes from seeking help. Year on Fire also serves as an important reminder that families are not always what they seem.

Year on Fire is available now. Thank you to Julie Buxbaum, NetGalley, Random House Children’s and Delacorte Press for an advanced ebook such that I could share my honest opinions.  

You can purchase Year on Fire here from Bookshop.org and here from Amazon. Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and Amazon. I will earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase.

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