Atlanta Burns – Chuck Wendig

About the Book

You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.

Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault.

You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get bit.

Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.

Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?

381 pages (paperback)
Published on January 27, 2015
Published by Skyscape
Author’s webpage
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This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

I’m quickly learning two things:

1. The only YA books I really, really enjoy are the YA books that make me wonder why they are considered YA.
2. I’m not sure if I can review Chuck Wendig’s books anymore.

Atlanta Burns is a duology, two books in one. Neither book is incredibly long, and the writing is so smooth and flowing that you’ll be able to fly through them both pretty quickly. The problem is, you won’t want to get through them quickly. In fact, you’ll want to take them pretty slow for various reasons.

First, this is one incredibly dark book. Dark, dark, dark. Atlanta Burns is one of those tortured characters that you can’t really help but be fascinated with, but also can’t help that uncomfortable feeling you get when you read about her. She’s in high school, but it’s pretty obvious that life has aged her past her years. The trauma she suffered is hinted at, but those hints work more to build her character and create a mystery than anything else.

And to be honest with you, dear reader, it’s incredibly refreshing to read a book about a woman who doesn’t take shit from anyone.

That trauma does get explained, though readers will probably figure it out before anything too explicit is said. However, it works wonders toward developing Atlanta’s character. She just about rivals Miriam Black with depth, darkness, and reality. Atlanta hooks you instantly, and she absorbs you. Reading this book is an experience.

Atlanta Burns tells two different stories, each equally dark, and each as emotionally charged. Atlanta is a sort of finds her way in the middle of trouble, and she’s infamous, and downtrodden enough to appeal to the underdog, those background characters that each society has – often those people who need help are the ones with the most compelling stories, and the ones that society would generally overlook.

In that respect, Atlanta, and this book in general, is an exercise in opposites. For such a dismal character, she has a moral streak that is quite surprising and compelling. The book is intense and dark, but it’s also filled with a twisted sort of hope. Atlanta is strong, but she’s also twisted. She’s light, but she’s dark. Her plight for the underdog, and her lack of fear in the face of all odds is nothing short of astounding. She’s absolutely aspirational in so many respects, and in most others she is one of the last people I’d ever want to actually meet.

This book is billed as young adult, but I appreciate Wendig for realizing that he doesn’t have to dumb down themes for younger audiences. There’s neo-Nazis, a ton of violence, prejudice, hate crimes, dog fighting, blood, swearing, and everything else you could name. Young adult doesn’t have to be all soft edges and romantic triangles. It can be a fight of light and dark, and the story of the underdog.

And that’s exactly what Atlanta Burns brings us.

Earlier I mentioned that I might not be able to review Chuck Wendig’s books anymore. Not because they are terrible, but because, at a certain point when I start liking an author’s books so consecutively, I start feeling awkward. Can the author do no wrong? Perhaps not in my eyes. Oh, I’m sure someday Chuck Wendig will write a book that I won’t like, but so far that hasn’t been the case, and isn’t that weird? I mean, how much talent can one man have? And now he has a writing shed? God help us all.

Atlanta Burns absolutely shocked me. It’s far more mature than I expected, and a whole lot darker. While it doesn’t quite hit Miram Black’s level of darkness, it’s pretty damn close. In fact, if you’re a fan of Miriam Black, and the way that Chuck Wendig explores humanity’s seedy underbelly, then this will be a great book for you. Wendig breaks down boundaries and challenges his readers, and that’s part of what is so addicting about his books. Atlanta Burns is a no holds barred train ride through Hell and Wendig is an incredibly talented engineer.

5/5 stars


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