Sunday, June 16, 2013

Review: Brooklyn, Burning

Brooklyn, Burning Author: Steve Brezenoff
Release date: September 1st 2011
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Hardcover, 210 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

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.

If we only look at the surface, it’s pretty clear that Brooklyn, Burning is about gender identity and sexual orientation issues. But looking at the surface is not nearly enough. By concentrating too much on things like gender identity, we fail to see what’s underneath, and we miss everything that’s beautiful. Now, I know that sounds like a terrible cliché, but it’s a lesson that can’t be repeated enough.

This book, much like its main character, refuses to be categorized. It’s really about many things: loneliness, feeling of not belonging, honesty, big dreams, love and acceptance. It is a beautifully written, poignant and at times painfully honest story, a true eye-opener that will stay with you for years.
No more – no more love, no more songwriters, no more long and gorgeous fingers in my hair. Purity of voice and purity of heart doesn’t mean purity of soul, and certainly not purity of body. You’d be gone in weeks, I knew, and I wasn’t going to let you into my heart before then.
Kid has gender identity and sexual orientation issues – or more precisely, other people have issues with Kid’s gender identity and sexual orientation. Kid is also very lost, lonely and unhappy. Kid’s father threw Kid out of the house because he refused to accept that Kid is different. So instead of living in a house like a normal teenager, Kid was forced to live in an abandoned warehouse, with a junkie musician Kid couldn’t help but fall in love with.

You may have noticed I’ve been avoiding to use personal pronouns - that’s because I don’t know which pronoun to use. Brezenoff never revealed Kid's gender, nor did it mather, which is a very important lesson in and of itself.

This story touched me on so many levels, but above all because I'm a parent. I have zero tolerance for bad parenting. If you aren’t ready to accept anything and everything your child might become, you shouldn’t be a parent at all. Once you are, though, quitting is not an option. I took the behavior of Kid's father very hard because I couldn't begin to imagine abandoning my kid like that.
I don’t remember what he sang about; I’m not sure I ever knew. It was his voice, gritty but gentle, like my father’s hands when I was too small to see past them, and the slow way his melody moved along its path, not in any hurry but enjoying every note for itself, rather than looking forward to the next note, and the next, until the song’s end. This song would have no end; it couldn’t possibly. This song was forever.
There’s not much I can say about Brooklyn, Burning without spoiling it. It's been two years since I'd first read it and I haven't been able to forget it. It's safe to say it endured the test of time. Besides, this is a time of great change, we're watching history unfold every day. Laws change, intolerant people are at least becoming slightly ashamed of themselves, and I feel that books like Brooklyn, Burning are now more important than ever.


  1. Wow! What a beautiful review! You got me very excited for this book, I admit I haven't even heard about it before but I feel like I have to read it now! Live poignant stories that are more than just about one thing! Thanks for sharing!


  2. I haven't heard of this book either but I like the sound of it. I love books that touch your heart- they're the ones that make me have sudden spaz attacks over.

    Lovely review, Maja! <33

  3. I'd never heard of this book before but just looking at your review I can say that this is a very touching and poignant read. I'm going to check this out some day. Thanks for the wonderful review, Maja! :)

  4. Wow this sounds like it has a lot of depth to it and is really much more than what it appears to be on the surface. I am so glad you liked this one as much as you did. It sounds like a really good read.

  5. I've never heard of this before, but I must say it sounds awesome! This would probably be an emotional read for me and I agree with you about bad parenting, I can't stand it. Great review!

    Janina @ Synchronized Reading

  6. I've never heard of this one before. But my heart goes out to Kid. I agree about bad parenting, I can't understand parents who can't accept their children for who they are. Wonderful review Maja :)

  7. I've seen this a few times around my library but I've never picked it up. Now I think I will because you're thoughtful review has put me in shivers. Gender identities and sexual orientation issues are becoming more common in YA nowadays, but it's great to find one with even more than that. Wow! Amazing

  8. I haven't heard of this one but the psychologist in me is always fascinated by these topics. This sounds like a powerful and informative read that I need to check out! Thanks for calling my attention to it. I know as parent there are things that are hard but you have to love your kids no matter what!

  9. A book that stays with one for two years plus is my sort of book, especially when it's so thought provoking. Thanks, will add to my TBR :)

  10. This sounds like a very interesting book. When these issues are dealt right, the book always sticks with me. If it can endure the test of time, it's something I really need to read. Thanks, great review!

  11. Huh, I haven't heard of this one but it seems like an intense and powerful read if it has stayed with you for over two years, Maja. Books like that are the best! Thanks for making me aware of this one.

  12. I've never heard of this one before but a book that has such a huge impact on you has my attention. I love the concept of never finding out Kid's gender. It's strange to imagine just how much of our perceptions are due to gender and when we strip that away, we are left with so much else. I really need to read this so thanks for putting it on my radar, Maja! :)

  13. Well, this is definitely unique
    For you not to know who the main character is
    What his/her gender is
    And the author being able to pull that off
    It's great
    Your reader,

  14. I have a copy of this and it's been sitting on my shelf for years now, and your review makes me want to carve out time for it asap. I love how we don't know Kid's gender, it reminds me of my experience reading Every Day, and how it opened my eyes to so many assumptions I inadvertently make when I'm given specific pronouns.

    "If you aren’t ready to accept anything and everything your child might become, you shouldn’t be a parent at all." <--beautifully said, and so true. Lovely review Maja!

  15. oh wow another book that is dealing with the harder topics of todays world that I think people encounter more and more today. I remember studying gender identity in my... class and it's really sad with what people have to go through just because its not the 'norm' so it doesn't fit into other people's perfect world and what they believe :( I am glad the author wrote this book and the fact that the gender wasn't really used. Great review!


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