Burning Blue – Paul Griffin
Who threw acid on Nicole Castro’s face? That’s the mystery that drives Paul Griffin’s lastest book, Burning Blue. Nicole has it all. She’s a pageant queen, but she’s also athletic and smart – part of the tennis team and president of the National Honor Society. There’s a lot of haterade to be felt for someone so seemingly perfect – and that’s what makes Burning Blue such a cool read, because all is not as it seems.
Late on her way to chemistry class, Nicole is accosted and doused in the face with acid from a squirt bottle. It all happens so fast, she never catches sight of the culprit. One side of her face completely burned and ruined, the list of suspects include her wrestling boyfriend, her best friends, a school janitor, a bitter teacher, a reporter desperate for big news stories, and other random students who potentially had a problem with the star student. Enter Jameson “Jay” Nazarro, a loner who feels a kinship of sorts with the newly damaged Nicole when he runs into her outside the guidance counselor’s office. Jay knows what it’s like to be considered a “freak” – he’s prone to seizures, and nobody likes hanging out with a guy who at any moment might spazz on the floor and pee himself, right? Years of lonertude have enabled Jay to hone his computer hacking and stalking skills, so he goes to work hacking emails and cell phones to track down the person behind Nicole’s life-altering attack.
Griffin doesn’t delve deep into the impact of the attack on Nicole’s own psyche, though she's got issues for sure; rather he keeps the focus on tracking down the broken psyche of a person who would do something so cruel to another human being. Because Nicole and Jay aren’t written as wimpering victims but wittily acerbic survivors, the reader pulls for them finding out the truth and Griffin keeps the suspects, plot twists and red herrings a’comin’. At times, I felt like I needed a scorecard to keep up with all the suspects and their possible motivations, but to his credit, Griffin knows how to write strong teen dialogue and keep things moving. Hand this to guys and girls looking for a good mystery.