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.
Alcohol use; Character death (side character, suicide); Cigarette use; Emotional abuse from parents; Underage relationship (main character and a side character, the relationship is not glorified and addressed in a negative light);
I’ve had Brooklyn Burning on my shelf for over a year, and the whole reason I even bought this was because a friend was gushing about it on Twitter two years ago. But honestly, they’re the only person I’ve ever heard talking about it, so I suppose that’s the reason why I hesitated on starting this. But I started a TBR Jar to get me to read some books that I own and have had for-literally-ever, and this was the second pick from it! (The first was #Prettyboy Must Die, but I enjoyed this one so much more.)
The thing that stuck out to me most about the book is that it’s told in first and second person. Essentially, the main character, Kid, is telling the story through their eyes to the love interest, Scout. It’s such an interesting way to read a story because it felt like I was overhearing someone’s conversation. It didn’t feel like Kid was talking to me, because “you” is a character in the story. I’m obviously not. This is definitely a trend that books about non-binary characters in like 2015 and before have used to avoid pronouns, but this was well-done. It didn’t feel like that’s what he was trying to do.
Like me go back to the whole “non-binary characters” thing. So this certainly isn’t the most explicit rep, and it’s not Own Voices either. Brooklyn Burning was published in 2011, which was such a different world than the one we live in now when it comes to queer rights and their progress. So neither Kid nor Scout are non-binary on the page. Still, you can tell because pronouns are never used for either of them and there are no gendered descriptions. They’re just people.
Most of the named characters in the story have no problem with either of them being who they are. Kid has problems with their parents, but they have Fish who owns a bar in Brooklyn and is very much a “tough love” type of person, and Jeremy who come around in the summers and is kind of like the good cop to Fish’s bad cop. And now they have Scout and this whole book is about found family and showing that you don’t have to forgive your biological family if they’re Not Good™.
So what is Brooklyn Burning about? It’s about A LOT. There is so much going on in these 200 pages, because they take place over the course of two consecutive summers.
It’s about social class! The main characters are all working class people. A bigger plot point is a gross millionaire looking to get richer by taking over an abandoned building where a ton of homeless people live and turning it into a business.
It’s about falling in love! As I mentioned in the content warnings, Kid has a relationship at sixteen(?) with someone who is WAY older than them and is super bad for them. But then they fall in love with Scout. This is such a sweet love story that ties in so well with the other sub-plot of self-acceptance and self-confidence.
It’s about growing up! This part of the story is done in a great way that I don’t see so much of in books, especially YA. Brooklyn Burning switches between two summers—I want to say it’s the summers of 2009 and 2010?—and this is an interesting way to show character growth, especially for Kid. I really enjoyed the way that the past and present were shown in such a contrast of each other, and it made me realize that this is an aspect I’d love to see in more stories.
I’m finished rambling now! This is a really raw, beautiful, and underrated book. I’m so glad I stumbled across this because I feel like it’s always going to hold a special place in my heart. If you’re a fan of complex coming of age stories with casual (albeit possibly too casual) queer rep, definitely pick up a copy of this.