Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Young Adult: Burn Bright by Marianne De Pierres

Marianne De Pierres and I have a history. When we first met, at a writers’ workshop at Aussiecon 3, she had submitted 4000 words of adult cyberpunk and I had submitted the same amount of YA fantasy. In the end, my YA novel got 60,000 words in and froze and Marianne became a well-known and highly respected author of, first cyberpunk, then space-based SF for adults. With her first young adult novel, Burn Bright (Random House Australia) she has entered my territory and it is very, very good.

The heroine of Burn Bright, Retra, is a Seal. That doesn’t mean she loves swimming but that she lives in a sealed enclave, one whose lifestyle would make the Puritans look like hippies.

When Retra’s brother, Joel, runs away to Ixion, island of teenage pleasure, where young people party all night (there is no day there), Retra’s family is punished. Unable to stand it any more, Retra flees to Ixion herself, to find her brother. She finds out a lot of other things too. And one question everybody on Ixion asks sooner or later is: what happens when you get too old?

I enjoyed Burn Bright, not only because of the storyline but because the heroine grows. She has always been strong, deep down, preparing herself for the pain she will feel from her obedience strip when she escapes, but the girl who arrives at Ixion is meek and easily shocked. As the novel progresses, Retra -- who eventually takes the Ixion name “Naif” -- is able to show her strength and courage to look after her new friends. Ironically, her Seal discipline is a help.

This is the first of a series, so be prepared for it to end at a dramatic moment. Recommended. ◊

Sue Bursztynski lives in Australia, where she works as a teacher-librarian. She has written several books for children and young adults, including Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly and, most recently, the YA novel Wolfborn. Her blog, The Great Raven, can be found at http://suebursztynski.blogspot.com.

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