When you're sixteen and no one understands who you are, sometimes the only choice left is to run. If you're lucky, you 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.
Brooklyn, Burning is a fearless and unconventional love story. Brezenoff never identifies the gender of his two main characters, and readers will draw their own conclusions about Kid and Scout. Whatever they decide, Brooklyn, Burning is not a book any teen reader will soon forget.
Brooklyn, Burning is the story of two summers in Brooklyn, two summers of fires, music, loss, and ultimately, love.
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"Brooklyn, Burning, an edgy tale of star-crossed street kids unified by music and a desire to catch a break, speaks clearly to the urgency of adolescence. It's a story filled with bad decisions, broken hearts, and examples of how loved ones often save us from ourselves. St. Paul author Steve Brezenoff candidly portrays how much the freedom of summer means to kids, and how, when it's over, you have to grow up all over again." --Mpls.St.Paul--Magazine
"A gritty but nuanced story of two years in the life of a street kid whose world veers from dream to nightmare and back again. Like Brooklyn in the summer, Brezenoff's book is hot and intense." --Ellen Wittlinger--Other Print
"Is sixteen-year-old Kid male or female? Gay or straight? Even Kid's father, who does not want Kid in his home, angrily states, 'I've got the only kid I know who doesn't know whether to be straight or gay or a girl or a boy or what?' Brezenoff never reveals the gender of two characters, Kid and Scout, leaving it up to readers to fill in their own perceptions. Living on the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, for two summers, Kid mostly crashes (illegally since underage) in Fish's basement of her bar, where Kid can practice drums. The summer before, Kid had loved musician and druggie Felix, who died suddenly, but now Kid meets and falls for Scout, another talented teen musician. When someone sets fire to an abandoned warehouse where some homeless people had lived, the police suspect Kid. Between the arson mystery, the love story with Scout, the drama of teen/family rebellion, and an unexpected reunion with Kid's mother, these two summers have transformed Kid. Friendship, love, family, and music are the impetuses for Kid's story, which is related in flashbacks of the previous summer. Told in first-person narrative by Kid, Scout is always referred to as 'you, ' which allows for 'hiding' the genders, but can be disconcerting and makes for occasional awkward, jarring reading. Parts of Brooklyn are evocatively portrayed with descriptions that show Brezenoff intimately knows, or remembers, this part of New York and loves it." --VOYA--Journal
"A lyrical, understated punk-kid love song to Brooklyn and to chosen family. Early in the summer of 2006, Scout comes to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, looking for someone to make music with. Kid, who plays drums and was kicked out by an angry father a year earlier, ostensibly for drinking, greets the newcomer with both suspicion and reluctant interest. Meanwhile, police are investigating the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse fire--based on a true event--and Kid is a suspect. As Kid moves through the streets and shops of Brooklyn, the narration names each place, creating both specificity and familiarity. Flashbacks to the previous summer, the fire and Kid's relationship with another troubled street kid slowly and deftly provide insight into Kid's circumstances. Homelessness, queerness and the rougher sides of living on the street are handled without a whiff of sensationalism, and the moments between Kid, the first-person narrator, and Scout, addressed as 'you, ' are described in language so natural and vibrant that readers may not even notice that neither character's gender is ever specified. While a couple of scenes with Kid's mother feel overly redemptive, readers will probably be happy for them anyway. Overall, the tone is as raw, down-to-earth and transcendent as the music Scout and Kid ultimately make together." --Kirkus Reviews--Journal
"Sixteen-year-old Kid, a passionate drummer and painter, spends summers on the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, taking refuge in Fish's bar, practicing drumming in the bar's cellar, and hanging out with friends. It's at Fish's that Kid meets Scout, a magnetic musician that Kid is drawn to but reluctant to get close to, still heartbroken after falling in love with--and losing--Felix, a musician and junkie, the previous summer. Brezenoff (The Absolute Value of -1) alternates between the events of each summer, but it's another authorial decision--to never make clear Kid or Scout's gender--that gives the story, and their relationship, their power (Kid's narration directly addresses Scout as 'you'). The author throws out occasional references to Scout's 'dirty-honey' singing voice and pixyish looks, and at one point Kid's father rages, 'I've got the only kid I know who doesn't know whether to be straight or gay or a girl or a boy or what.' But Brezenoff lets readers take the reins, recasting and reimagining the lead roles as often as they like. For readers with little use for labels, it's an intimate yet wonderfully open rock 'n' roll love story." --Publishers Weekly--Journal
"Like Ponyboy and the gang in The Outsiders (rev. 8/67), the street kids in Brezenoff's Greenpoint, Brooklyn, become an alternate family for one another. Kid's first-person narrative also shares Ponyboy's sensitive voice and sensual descriptions of beautiful boys and girls, though in this new novel, sexuality and gender lines are often blurred or simply undecided. Tossed out by a narrow-minded father, Kid finds good friends who offer hugs, drinks, and, in the basement of Fish's bar, a place to play drums all summer. Despite warnings from maternal Fish, Kid falls hard for Felix, an entrancing guitar player and serious junkie. Kid spends months with Felix in his abandoned warehouse 'home'; then a raging fire destroys the building and Kid becomes a prime suspect for arson. Kid feels lost with Felix gone, until Scout arrives at the start of another summer, with a singing voice 'warm and sweet' and another chance at love. A moving, personal story of friendship, loss, and love, Brezenoff's novel is also a tender tribute to all LGBTQ youth." --The Horn Book Magazine--Journal
"After Kid's gender and sexual orientation ambiguity prove too much for his/her father to accept, the fifteen-year-old lives on the streets in Brooklyn, finding friendship and solace amid a group of older people who frequent a friendly neighborhood bar. There Kid meets and falls in love with Felix, even though friends warn Kid that Felix is a junkie. The summer after Felix dies of an overdose, Kid is still reeling with grief when Scout appears with a guitar, and the two become attached and fall in love; meanwhile, police question Kid about burning down a warehouse where Felix and Kid were known to stay. Scout, like Kid, is never assigned a gender, and the majority of the book consists of them moving around Brooklyn and seducing each other with their music while trying to convince Fish, the owner of the bar, to let them stay in the basement. Though stylish in its sadness, the book is too thin in its plot to bear the weight of the characters' emotional intensities; Scout's backstory is never revealed, and the repetitiveness of the couple's days and nights bogs down any forward movement. The mystery of the fire, however, as well as the tightly drawn setting in real New York City neighborhoods, may prove enough for readers already intrigued by the authorial decision to keep the gender of the characters in flux, a device that works flawlessly through the use of Kid's first-person narration and the carefully drawn responses of other characters. With its development of a supportive ersatz family and its happy-as-it's-going-to-get ending, this will appeal to readers who enjoyed David Levithan's Love Is the Higher Law." --The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books--Journal
"Steve Brezenoff's gorgeous, sad and hopeful Brooklyn, Burning will make you want to walk out the door and fall in love right now. It will also remind you that it's totally possible. It's a love letter to Brooklyn, a love letter to music booming from the basement, and most of all, a love letter to every kind of love. (But especially the punk rock kind.) Guess how I felt about it: --Other Print
"At one point in Brezenoff's ambitious new novel, protagonist Kid's father snarls, 'I've got the only kid who doesn't know whether to be straight or gay or a girl or a boy or what.' Well, not the only kid. Kid's new love interest, Scout, is also sexually ambiguous and, like Kid, non-gender-specific. In fact, the author never does tell the reader the sexual identity of either of the two teens. This makes for a certain amount of confusion, as does the author's narrative strategy of moving backward and forward in time. But this strategy does add tension to a second mystery: Who set the fire that destroyed a historic (but deserted) warehouse? The police think it was Kid, but was it? Meanwhile, Kid and Scout are discovering their tender feelings for each other and making music: Kid's a drummer, and Scout's a singer (and guitar player, of course). The question raised by all this is not whether their love will last but, rather, do their genders and sexual identities matter. Heated discussions are sure to follow." --Booklist--Journal
"Steve Brezenoff's Brooklyn, Burning is what I want out of a novel: it's funny and sad (but not always when you expect it to be), plotted tight as a plumb line without ever letting you see that till the end, pops you with the surprises of human kindness and decency even more than it startles you with plunges into the depths. As good an example as you will find that the novel is the art that can go broad and deep at the same time, it tackles the kind of difficult question that only the novel can do: what will we do with all the unwanted talent and rejected love in the world, and how will the kids (and the Kids) cope when they find out they're wanted after all? What happens when kids are loaded up with far more than anyone should have to bear, and they bear it, and go on? Like any good novel, it's one particular, memorable, answer in a form so vivid it will stay with you forever. All that, and he did it for a bunch of kids, who will now probably sneak off and savor it all by themselves, as if it were for their generation and not for all time. Don't let the kids hide this in the cellar; drag it upstairs where everyone can enjoy it." --John Barnes, Printz Honoree--Other Print