Flicker & Burn

by T. M. Goeglein
ages: 12+
First sentence: “My name is Sara Jane Rispoli.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: August 20, 2013
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Others in the series: Cold Fury

When we last left Sarah Jane Rispoli (spoilers for Cold Fury, of course) she had discovered ghiaccio furioso,but has no idea how to control it. Her family has been kidnapped by some unknown assailants, and even though she’s just 16, she’s become the Counselor at Large for the Outfit, Chicago’s mob scene.  Her life goal? To get her family back in one piece.

Flicker & Burn is Sarah Jane’s increasingly complex and intense attempt to do just that. There are some pretty creepy villains: red-eye, white skinned, sexless beings driving black Mister Kreamy Kone ice cream trucks. They don’t sound terribly horrifying, but believe me: in Goeglein’s hands they are. Sarah’s best friend, Doug, gets involved in the hunt, and inadvertently discovers an even seedier underside to the Kreamy Kone empire. On top of that, Sarah’s boyfriend Max is demanding answers Sarah can’t give (or doesn’t want to; she pulls a Spider Man: pushing Max away in order to protect him). And then, relatives Sarah didn’t even know she had show up serving only to complicate things.

I have to admit that I liked this one a lot more than I did Cold Fury.  With the mob background out of the way, Goeglein was able to focus more on Sarah Jane (who is still infuriatingly stubborn) and her Quest. I liked that he explained what could be a paranormal element with science; it gave this one more credibility.

But Goeglein’s strength really lies in writing action: Sarah Jane really is a kick butt, no nonsense girl, and she fights like one. She’s a survivor, and she cares deeply, but that isn’t a weakness. I appreciate that Goeglein isn’t willing to skimp on Sarah Jane’s character just because she’s a girl. I also appreciated that she wasn’t androgynous either: she is a girl, she has feelings, and while she’s not the best at expressing them, that doesn’t make her soulless.

The ending was a bit of a setback, after all that Sarah Jane goes through, but it only served to make me curious as to where Goeglein’s taking the series next.

Bonus: While you’re waiting for the book to come out, check out the videos Ted has up about Flicker & Burn. They’re a lot of fun.

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