Thursday 10 August 2017

Clare Reviews: The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

The ArsonistTitle: The Arsonist
Author: Stephanie Oakes
Format: ARC
Source: Received for an honest review
Pages: 493
Rating: 4.5/5
Blurb: Molly Mavity is not a normal teenage girl. For one thing, her father is a convicted murderer, and his execution date is fast approaching. For another, Molly refuses to believe that her mother is dead, and she waits for the day when they'll be reunited . . . despite all evidence that this will never happen.
Pepper Al-Yusef is not your average teenage boy. A Kuwaiti immigrant with epilepsy, serious girl problems, and the most useless seizure dog in existence, he has to write a series of essays over the summer . . . or fail out of school.
And Ava Dreyman--the brave and beautiful East German resistance fighter whose murder at seventeen led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall--is unlike anyone you've met before.
When Molly gets a package leading her to Pepper, they're tasked with solving a decades-old mystery: find out who killed Ava, back in 1989. Using Ava's diary for clues, Molly and Pepper realize there's more to her life--and death--than meets the eye. Someone is lying to them. And someone out there is guiding them along, desperate for answers.

I went into The Arsonist pretty much blind. All I knew was that it was about a girl whose father was imprisoned for arson. I knew nothing of Ava's viewpoint or Pepper's or just how emotionally intense this book would wind up being. 

The Arsonist is the sort of book that consumes you. The difference from first page to last wasn't just character growth - I feel different too. And I love when a book can do that. This wasn't a quick read at all. It's a fairly long book and the intensity of it meant that I put it down a few times to breathe. But it was an experience of a book. And those are one of my favourite kinds.

In The Arsonist you read from three different perspectives. I struggle to pick a favourite to read from because they were all excellent and distinctive but I definitely related a lot to Ava. I've never been in her situation obviously, but her character and her beliefs and her actions resonated so strongly with me and I absolutely adored her sections. I admired Molly and Pepper in a different way. They were both so unique and so brave in their own ways and it broke my heart a little every time they had to go through something awful. There were a couple of scenes where I had a lump in my throat - the kind where it's too sad even to cry.

The central mystery I found very compelling. True the "Who killed Ava" mystery was relatively clear but it was so exciting and interesting to watch the connections fall together. It felt a little like one of those crime maps on TV with all the pins and string? I was adding every clue to that board inside my head all the way through and by the end it felt so satisfying and complete to have all the connections make sense. And there were plenty of things, even towards the end, that took me by surprise. 

I mentioned that this isn't a one-sitting kind of read and I will admit that once I had put this book down it took me a while to pick back up. The truth being that at times it just felt too heavy for my brain. So this probably isn't the book to choose when you're in a reading slump. It is however, a book I think you should definitely read. It taught me and changed me and emotionally tore me apart and I am so grateful that I had the chance to read it. 

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  1. Sounds inspiring. Just like your writing.

  2. Sounds like a really interesting read. I'm going to grab it if my library gets a copy!

    1. I definitely recommend it - it was a very inspiring and affecting read!

  3. This one sounds like a worthy second novel after The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, I just hope to hell we won't have to wait quite this much for the author's third book. She's clearly so talented. I especially love that you didn't have a favorite viewpoint, because each was well-done - I hate when one or two are more outstanding than the rest.

    Wonderful review!

    1. I am really looking forward to reading The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly now! And I'm with you in hoping Oakes writes a third book soon! And yes! It's so rare to have such well balanced viewpoints!