Throughout June, GeekMom celebrates Pride Month with lots of LGBTQ content. Follow the Pride Month tag to find all the content in one space (including LGBTQ content from previous years) and keep checking back for more throughout the month. Today’s book review is Nothing Burns As Bright As You by Ashley Woodfolk.
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Trigger Warnings: Toxic relationships, fire, drug use, racism, homophobia.
If you ever wanted to find a book that encapsulates the power and raw emotion of first love, the danger that comes with the knowledge that you would follow that person anywhere – even to your own doom – then Nothing Burns As Bright As You by Ashley Woodfolk might be exactly what you’re looking for. This YA novel in verse follows two teen girls so caught up in the gravity of one another that their pull causes everything else to collapse around them. It’s a book about first love but also the special kind of overwhelming grief that can only come from its loss.
If I’m honest, very little actually happens in this book; Nothing Burns As Bright As You is a book that is focused so strongly on character and emotion that the plot ended up being sacrificed somewhat. Yes, there are events: the fire, a party, trips to the beach, nights spent together in bed – but they too feel almost lost, caught up in the swell of the girls and their irresistible attraction. Looking back on the story, everything that happens seems blurred, as if being seen through a distorted lens. I suppose that’s how it often feels looking back on the early days of first love though, you don’t so much remember the specific events, you remember the feelings.
The book is told through strange, not quite dual timelines. In one we follow the events of a single day, the day the girls wake up early to set fire to a dumpster outside their high school, and the repercussions of that event. The other not-quite-timeline skips and jumps around the years running up to the day of the fire, giving us glances at the girls’ relationship as it grows in ways neither of them can predict. It’s proudly sapphic, but also confused, hesitant, and unsure in a way that many queer readers will instantly recognize.
Honestly, I did struggle with Nothing Burns As Bright As You. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been written in regular prose, the book in verse aesthetic made me struggle to follow what was going on and where in time I was at any given moment. However, I also appreciate that the disjointed writing style that came from this added to the overall feel of the book, adding extra layers of… Not quite confusion but that sense of being lost in someone else. Time and place no longer matter, only they do.
As it was, this wasn’t my favorite queer romance that I’ve read this year, but I appreciate what it does and feel that there will be many readers out there who will cling to it like a life vest during dark times. It wasn’t for me, but it could easily become a classic.
GeekMom received a copy of this title for review purposes.