Brooklyn, Burning – Steve Brezenoff

Synopsis from Goodreads.
“When you’re sixteen and no one understands who you are, sometimes the only choice left is to run. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a place that accepts you, no questions asked. And if you’re really lucky, that place has a drum set, a place to practice, and a place to sleep. For Kid, the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, are that place. Over the course of two scorching summers, Kid falls hopelessly in love and then loses nearly everything and everyone worth caring about. But as summer draws to a close, Kid finally finds someone who can last beyond the sunset.”

“I squeezed your hand and looked at your face. It was lit up, not from the rising sun, but from within, and I knew mine must have been too.”

High points.
Questions the restrictions and preconceptions of gender. Brooklyn. Music. Love with no limits. Sunsets. No inhibitions. The dark side of growing up. The complex relationship between kids and parents who could never/refuse to understand. Summer. Basements. Sex. Dealing with loss. Looking to the future. Happy ending…thank god.

Low Points.
When I love a book, I always want it to be longer. I want to spend more time with the characters that I have come to know and love and their friends and experience the world they see…. But, maybe with less junkies.
So I’m stamping my foot and moaning because this book wasn’t long enough.
Also… I want to add another Low Point.
Not for the book… but for me.
Even though the two main characters had no gender, I couldn’t help but assign them one anyway. Throughout the book I kept looking for clues to see if Brezenoff gave anything away (“She must be a girl because boys don’t drink Vodka and Cranberry, do they?” “OK, he must be a boy because they wouldn’t assume a girl set fire to the warehouse, would they?”) But in doing that I realised I was just highlighting my own ridiculous and unfounded preconceptions about gender. (I have a male friend who could drink me under the table with fruit-based drinks… but I guess that wouldn’t take much for I am an absolute lightweight). Why can’t a boy drink vodka and cranberry? Why can’t a girl set fire to a warehouse? Absolutely no reason. After about three chapters I gave up because I realised I didn’t want to know what gender they were. It didn’t matter in the slightest. Gender identities are drummed into us from birth but this book effectively shows us they are futile and restricting. Love is love… it doesn’t need a definition or a label.

Hero, um… no, Heroine… I mean Hero. No, it’s definitely Heroine. Or are they…..a….?
Kid has quickly become one of my favourite narrators in any book. They have such a positive outlook on life and they remain hopeful, no matter how much crap is thrown at them. I don’t want to say anything more for fear I will spoil anything…. But it was a pleasure going on Kid’s journey with them.

Love Interest.
With Kid referring to Scout, who I like to call ‘the enigma’, as only ‘You’ it felt like I was being let in on a glorious and intimate secret, like I was reading a one-sided love letters and I was desperate to see the replies. As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think of those times on the bus where you eavesdrop overhear someone’s conversation and it sounds so fascinating and captivating and for the briefest of moments you feel part of it.
This book is written for just the two of them and that this is just the first chapter.

Theme Tune

It’s pretty self-explanatory.
(Random aside: Look at those tracksuits! I wish it was still the 90s…. and that I didn’t Damon Albarn so oddly attractive with his eyeliner and the aforementioned tracksuit.)

Angst Level.
10/10. This book made my blood boil so this section is going to turn into a massive, incoherent rant on behalf of Kid, who isn’t given the chance to speak for themself because they are written off by the people who are supposed to protect them from narrow-minded people as soon as times get hard.
Unfortunately I am not mild-mannered and my soapbox is prepped and ready.
It’s hard enough being a kid. It’s even harder to be a kid growing up with feelings that society has deemed ‘abnormal’ and ‘wrong’. And it’s impossible to grow up knowing your parents hate you because of something that is completely out of your control and one of the things that makes you who you are.
With the exception of Fish and, eventually Kid’s mum, all of the adults in this book were so intolerant and despicable. The police assume the worst, don’t care about the truth and dismiss them as sexual deviants. Konny’s parents didn’t care where she was and what she was doing… as long as it wasn’t under their roof.
And don’t even get me started on Kid’s dad.
This book covers the dark side of growing up in the urban jungle: runaways, teenage prostitutes, drugs, problems with parents, corruption.
But it also covers hope, friendship, understanding, solidarity, and above all, love without restrictions and labels.
Even though it may not seem it from the above rant (I did warn you!), ‘Brooklyn, Burning’ is one of the most positive novels I have ever read and the ending is so beautiful that it washes away all the intolerance and shows that love will conquer all. No matter how hard they try to quash it.
*deep breath*

Recommended For.
Everyone. People who have ever felt at odds with society. People who believe in unconditional love. People who appreciate beautiful, thought-provoking prose. People who don’t mind their preconceptions being challenged and then being unequivocally dashed. People who appreciate the raw urban beauty of the city. People who have always wanted to be in a band, even if they’re pretty sure a drum kit would implode as soon as you looked at it. People who like fruit-based alcholic drinks. People who have always thought that the sunrise is better than the sunset.

I received a copy from the publishers via Netgalley.

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