Review: (You) Set Me on Fire

(You) Set Me on Fire
Mariko Tamaki
Penguin Canada
2012
9780143180937

Allison has been burned in the past – literally and figuratively. A failed high school romance resulted in emotional and physical scars, but now Allison is off to college, where she can be whoever she wants to be. When she meets Shar outside a frat party, Allison is instantly drawn to her. The two quickly become inseparable, blowing off school to party and making fun of the “normal” girls in their student residence. As their friendship begins to become toxic, will Allison once again go down in flames?

I was inspired to read this book after hearing author Mariko Tamaki read from it at The Word on the Street in September. I guess this book could be considered part of the emerging “new adult” trend since it is about the college experience. I found this to be a nice change from reading about younger teens in high school. While I can’t say my university life was anything like Allison’s, having recently finished graduate school at a school where last night’s partying was a frequent topic of discussion among the undergrads on the bus, I can still somewhat relate. Allison finds herself in a number of awkward situations throughout the book, and these stories, such as getting sick from too many shots after climbing the “Tower of Power” at a frat party, are laugh-out-loud funny. Tamaki does an excellent job of capturing a young adult’s dialogue and worldview. Readers will cringe at Allison’s misfortunes while still rooting for her to get her life in order.

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The Word on the Street

On Sunday I braved the chilly temperature and threat of rain to venture over to Queen’s Park Circle in Toronto for the 23rd annual Word on the Street book and magazine festival. It had been a few years since I was able to attend, so I was happy to be back. My first stop was  This Is Not the Shakespeare Stage, where I was able to take in Norah McClintock, Ted Staunton, Shane Peacock, and Richard Scrimger (see photo below) as they discussed their recent collaboration on the young adult series Seven. The series is about an adventuresome grandfather who, upon his death, leaves a will outlining seven tasks, one for each of his grandsons that will take them on journeys from Iceland to Mt. Kilimanjaro. Other authors who contributed to the series include Eric Walters, John Wilson, and Sigmund Brouwer. Interestingly, the books do not need to be read in any particular order, so the “ending” of the series is really dependent on the reader. For more information about the series, visit http://orcabook.com/seventheseries/#!/main.

Moderator Dory Cerny leads the discussion with Norah McClintock, Ted Staunton, Shane Peacock and Richard Scrimger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up was author Megan Crewe. Crewe discussed facing your fears through writing and talked about the inspiration behind her novel The Way We Fall, about a teenager whose island community is quarantined following the outbreak of a deadly virus.  After hearing Crewe read a passage from the book, I am adding it to my “To be read” pile! If you’ve already read it, fear not: the second book in the trilogy, The Lives We Lost, is out in February.

Next onstage was the “Out of the Ordinary” panel featuring Deborah Kerbel, Lesley Livingston, Mariko Tamaki, and Natalie Zina Walschots. Kerbel began with a reading from her latest book, Under the Moon, in which Lily’s health suffers after she loses the ability to sleep following her aunt Su’s death. She meets Ben, who works the night shift at the local drive-through, who at first seems just plain rude but who might actually be the key to saving her. Next up was Lesley Livingston, reading a storm scene from her new release, Starling. Appropriately enough, during the reading heavy rain came down and the wind was blowing. Very creepy. Fans of Livingston’s Wondrous Strange trilogy will be pleased to know that Fennrys Wolf shows up just in time to save our heroine, Mason, from the storm and he just happens to be…naked. And suffering severe memory loss. He and Mason must work together to figure out what is happening around them and who Fennrys is. Following Livingston, Mariko Tamaki read from (You) Set Me On Fire, about a college student named Allison who’s been burned before – both literally and figuratively. Allison revels in the opportunity to reinvent herself at college, but will her relationship with Shar cause her to earn more scars? Tamaki’s hilarious reading of a scene in which a college party goes horribly wrong thanks to the “Tower of Power” and its accompanying shots was certainly well-received by the crowd. Finally, Natalie Zina Walschots read a few poems from Doom: Poems for Supervillains, impressing us with her vocabulary while offering up a different take on classic bad guys like Bane.

Following the panel, I was able to get my copy of Starling signed by Lesley Livingston, and then it was off to explore the rest of the festival. Unfortunately my camera battery died and I have no idea how to get the rest of my pictures out of my (non-smart)phone, but I can say I did Kevin Sylvester rocking an awesome chef’s hat while signing books for his fans, and I also saw Olivia leaving the festival, Chirp over at Owl Kids, and Polkaroo hiding out behind the TVO Kids stage waiting to make a grand entrance. Despite the chilly weather, I had a great time and hope to return next year.