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The Burn Journals


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About the Author

Brent Runyon is now 28 years old. He graduated from high school with his class and from Ithaca College with honors. He is a regular contributor to public radio's This American Life, on which portions of this story first appeared.


Gr 8 Up-One day 14-year-old Brent Runyon came home from school and set himself on fire, burning 85 percent of his body. Brent's riveting first-person account (Knopf, 2005) of teen angst and uncertainty culminating in an especially horrific suicide attempt, while sometimes hard to listen to, is moving and insightful. Christopher Evan Welch perfectly captures the naive, self-absorbed, ignorant, and angry facets of the teenager's character extremely well. Listeners alternately cringe with impatience at Runyon's thoughtlessness, empathize with his desire to please his parents and carve out a place for himself among his peers, and think about the physical and emotional pain he suffers during his long recuperation. The boy relives his conversations with his parents, nurses, and therapists; provides details of his treatment; and voices his anguish and fears. Welch's narration moves seamlessly from humor to despair, and his ability to assume the persona of Brent adds to the power of this true story.-Cindy Lombardo, Cleveland Public Library, OH Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Engrossing from first page to last, this book based on Runyon's own adolescent experiences draws readers into the world of an eighth-grader whose life is irrevocably changed the day he deliberately sets himself on fire. Brent, after narrowly escaping death, wakes up in a hospital with 85% of his body severely burned and begins a slow, arduous path to recovery. Rather than analyzing reasons the patient wanted to kill himself, the first-person narrative remains focused on the immediate challenge of survival, incorporating meticulous details of Brent's day-to-day ordeals in the hospital and later in a rehabilitation center. Time, at first, is measured by Brent's fluctuating levels of discomfort and comfort, ranging from the excruciating pain of having bandages removed to the sheer bliss of tasting ice cream for the first time in several weeks. And his repentant apologies to his parents and to Craig, his brother, who discovers Brent immediately after the incident, are wrenching in their honesty ("I hope Craig can love me again"). When his wounds begin to heal, Brent's thoughts turn from the present to the future as he nervously makes plans to return home and re-enter society. Despite its dark subject matter, this powerful chronicle of Brent's journey to heal expresses hope, celebrates life and provides an opportunity to slip inside the skin of a survivor with a unique perspective. Ages 14-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"[The Burn Journals] describes a particular kind of youthful male desolation better than it has ever been described before, by anyone." -Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon"A fascinating account of the mending of a body and mind, told with the simple and honest sensibility of someone too young to have endured so much." --Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha"Runyon has, perhaps, written the defining book of a new genre, one that gazes...unflinchingly at boys on the emotional edge ." -Booklist (starred review)"A taut, chilling account of the author's attempt to commit suicide...a must-read for teenagers struggling with self-doubt."-The Denver Post"An excruciating, brilliant book...WOW." --A.M. Homes, author of Things You Should Know

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