I really enjoyed this little gem of a book. I think it may strike a chord with teen and young adult readers. It combines the complexity of a vitriolic separation, the strained relationship between mother and daughter, the rekindled relationship between father and daughter, and the mindset of an arsonist. It also shows a connection via art, and in doing so teaches the reader about the subject.
Valentine has described the mentality of a firebug to a tee. The emotions, the feeling of release, the sense of power, the fascination and the peace after the fact. How trauma and stress makes her retreat and use the fire as a coping mechanism. In a way it is also an excellent tactic to annoy and exact revenge on those around her.
Watching the relationship between Iris and Ernest be re-built within a few days left a feeling of nostalgia and sadness. Lost time can never be regained, and in a way I feel this was the author’s way of shouting out to parents in divorce situations. The parents, who are right-fighters and use their children as weapons against the other parent. The ones who end up alienating the child from one parent. Leaving aside the fact there are certainly situations, such as abuse of any kind, where keeping a parent away from a child is perhaps in the best interest of the child.
In this story it is about control and using Iris or rather her absence, as a weapon against Ernest. Hannah is only motivated by greed, money and the need for complete and utter control. She starts playing Iris and Ernest off against each other, well at least she thinks she is. There seems to be no maternal instinct at all. In fact she as far as Hannah is concerned Iris needs to be a non-factor when it comes to Ernest.
The end is nothing less than poetic justice. Possibly the dream of every teen in similar situations.
I really liked the way Valentine was able to relate to how a teen like Iris would feel and react. A really good read.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.