La isla bonita: Burn for Burn

Burn for Burn
Siobhan Vivian & Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster, 2012

review by Tessa

Lillia, good little rich girl whose world is coming unhinged
Kat, music-loving loner who won’t stand for being called trashy
Mary, suffered more than anyone on Jar Island knows, except for a certain golden boy
Rennie, head cheerleader who only wants to cheer for herself
Reeve, carefree stud . . .or is he?
Alex, nice & popular boy who’s always scribbling in his journal
Nadia, the little sister of Lillia, coming up in the social world of Jar Island High

Mary, Kat, and Lillia all have their own perfectly good and just reasons for wanting revenge. But you know the old saying about good intentions . . .

Island life is like living in a bubble. The differences between rich and poor, outsider and insider, socially visible or invisible, are heightened by the geographical fact of being trapped on a small piece of earth surrounded by water. There’s nowhere to go so alliances are stronger, almost tribal.  But it can also be suffocating.

Jar Island is no different. The popular kids like Lillia, Rennie, Alex and Reeve may have stuck together since the 9th grade, but they want to break free of the island as much as Kat, who dodges rumors and insults daily, due to a really nasty ex-best friend.  Some of these kids are second or third-generation islanders, and some were summer families who decided to stay year round. The new girl, Mary, is actually an islander who had to leave and feels like she has to come back to prove to herself that she’s strong enough to face her past.  This tightly woven world of secrets, friendships, petty hatreds, and not-so-hidden personal ambition is the perfect fodder for the revenge enacted in Burn for Burn.


photo by flickr user jlbruno


What is this book’s intention and is it achieved?

I won’t say much about this because Burn for Burn comes out in September and I don’t want to spoil it for any reader.  Han and Vivian have written a solid work of realistic fiction, filled with characters that hold their own.  There’s a hint of something else there, too, that will doubtless be examined more in the next books in this trilogy.  But for the most part, this is a world of teenagers who exemplify the problems that appear when you have to grow up — especially if your parents are the lenient kind.

I feel like we all know how cruel middle-school age kids can be, and we’ve probably all been cruel in our time (and hopefully we now regret it).  Maybe in bigger communities the taunters and tauntees can disappear into the crowd and find their own space. Not so on Jar Island.  Now that the teens are in high school, social roles have gelled, and whoever is stuck on either side of the line either tries to forget and get on with their plan to get off the island, stews about past grievances, or stirs up trouble.  If this sounds like a typical teen drama, it’s not.  The kids themselves may think of their peers in 2-D terms, but in the main there’s a background to each of them.  That’s what makes the web of revenge so sticky.

The setting of Burn for Burn is the most seductive part of the book for me – it begins on a ferry! There are beaches and probably houses with shingles worn down by the sea air, and poolhouses, and lilac bushes, and all kinds of one of a kind hangouts that tourists and locals alike love – ice cream shops, crappy Italian restaurants, bakeries, and marinas.

It’s a big relief that the book doesn’t let us off at a cliffhanger, but it doesn’t tie everything up.  It’s a satisfying start to a series that acknowledges the giddy excitement of getting what you want and the sick feeling of watching it spiral out of control.

I received this book from: the publisher, in ARC form, with no compensation on either side



  1. I really enjoyed this as well, I agree with you on the setting, life on Jar Island but feel so isolated for teens/kids stuck there and I felt so sorry for Mary once we learn her story.

    Great review! Bring on book 2, I need to know more about that mysterious aspect around Mary 😉

    • I agree, I really like how they handled Mary’s story. I wonder if she’s going to get totally authoritarian with her …whatever it is. Power?

  2. Great review. Did you right the publisher and ask to review the book or they just sent it to you?

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