Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Review: Arson by Estevan Vega

From the back cover:

ArsonArson Gable feels like a freak.  He can create fire.  He never asked for it. He never wanted it.  But he can’t shut it off.

Before now, three things were true:  he both loved and despised his grandmother; his life was going nowhere; and he was alone.  But when a strange girl—who feels more normal behind a mask than inside her own skin—moves in next door, Arson hopes to find something he’s never had: purpose.  Using what he fears most about himself, Arson must face his consuming past and confront the nightmare that is his present as he walks the fine line between boy and monster.  Dark, moody, and breathtakingly relevant, Arson, the chilling chronicle of an isolated boy with unimaginable ability, is sure to ignite the hearts and minds of a new generation.

*  *  *

Over the years I’ve enjoyed stories that include characters with special abilities or powers.  Their discovery of their talent/curse, their mastery of it and how they choose to use it can make for some interesting moments. Jumper, Harry Potter, X-Men and The Time Traveler’s Wife, some of my favorites, are examples of this.

In Estevan Vega’s Arson, we not only find a young man who is struggling with his fire-making ability, but also other characters who are wrestling with issues of their own.  Arson’s new next-door neighbors are a former minister’s family which seems to be coming apart at the seams. The Phoenix family (interesting choice of name, by the way) includes Emery, a young lady who’s about Arson’s age. She struggles with tough issues of her own, hiding behind a mysterious mask. In addition, Emery’s parents are having serious problems in their marriage, which makes Emery’s home life almost unbearable.

Arson’s home life isn’t much better.  With his mother dead and father gone, his grandmother has always been his guardian.  In her advanced age, she is beginning to lose her mind and is abusive to Arson, whom she resents and taunts frequently.

Arson and Emery meet and form a bond as two teens who are struggling in similar ways. Neither fit within their societies, and neither has a pleasant home to which they can return each night.  It’s more than just a romantic connection—it’s like they’re partners in a wartime bunker.  Their relationship grows and changes over the course of the book, and at its conclusion, they are completely open with each other, mask-free in literal and emotional ways.

Estevan Vega is a young and very talented writer.  His words reached far beyond his age, and he captured feelings in his characters that I myself have felt as a 39 year-old woman who’s been married for 15 years.  How he enunciated those thoughts and emotions as such a young man is amazing to me.  There were times when I could feel the tears welling up at the recognition of some of the painful issues that these characters were dealing with.  He is certainly insightful, and he knows how to put that on the page.

Having said all of this, I was glad when Arson was over.  At times it was difficult to read, as it continuously deals with dark and serious issues. It is certainly no fairy tale, although I didn’t expect it to be.  I think I needed a few more moments of levity, sprinkled throughout the difficult scenes, which came in almost every chapter.   There were a few incidents of abuse that were a bit disturbing to me, although those moments were consistent with the characters.  It all just wore me down after a while.  I suppose you could conclude from this that Estevan’s writing engaged me enough to bring me to a place of emotional fatigue.

So I would conclude that on one level, I enjoyed Vega’s work and admire him very much.  But on another, I feel worn out and do not have the need to read any sequels that may come forth later.  That is unless I learn that some moments of mirth are just occasionally sprinkled in to douse the flames of pain and suffering.  Arson definitely has a certain audience, and while I’m not in it, I do hope this leads to much success for Estevan Vega.


If you'd like to win my copy of Estevan Vega's Arson, here are the contest rules:
  • Leave a comment below; this counts as your entry.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm on Saturday, May 8th, 2010.
  • Open to U.S. addresses only.
  • Make sure at least one posted comment includes your email address. If you'd rather not have your email posted here, you may contact me directly to give me that information after you've entered here.
  • I will compile the entries and the winner will be chosen by, so even one entry can make you a winner!
  • Should you win, I will contact you on Sunday the 9th for your mailing information.  Please take measures to ensure that my email will make it past your spam filters, lest you miss my message! ( You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.
  • More information on the giveaway policies can be found on the Contact / Policies page.

Bonus Entries

Please make note of all your bonus entries in your comment(s).  You may post separate comments or a single large comment.  Here are your bonus entry options:
  • Follow The Calico Critic by clicking on the Google "Follow" button on my sidebar (old or new followers both get the bonus entry, just let me know you're following).
  • Follow me (@LHartness) on Twitter (Please tell me your @UserName).
  • Tweet about this book's giveaway on; be sure to use an URL linking back to this blog posting in your tweet. You may do this as frequently as every 8 hours between now and May 8th at 11:59pm EST.  For each tweet, please come back and post the direct URL link to that specific tweet, not just your @Username.

That's it!  Thanks for stopping by, and good luck to all the entrants!

Next stop on the Arson blog tour:  The Moody Teenager


  1. I've been following the tour hoping for a chance to win, sounds good!

  2. Dude, I'd love to win a copy of Arson. Sign me up!

  3. I've been hearing A LOT about this one, so I'd like to give it a shot!

    I follow your blog.


    stephaniet117 at yahoo dot com

  4. Cant wait to read this!

    kpic724 (at) gmail (dot) com

  5. I am follower and would love to win this book!

  6. Please enter me! I follow you through Google Friend Connect. And through twitter (my username is @pinkhair)

    shutupjessicasreading @ gmaildotcom

  7. Sounds like a great book!

    I am a follower, and I follow on twitter. My username is Door2Wonderland.

    krae991 at yahoo dot com

  8. please count me in...thanks :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  9. thanks for the contest, I love the cover of Arson!

    I'm a google follower, and a twitter follower @inconceivably.

    allison.d.mason AT gmail DOT com

  10. This is a wonderful review. I have read books like that too - you almost come out the other side exhausted.

    I am curious about the book having seen it around. Please enter me.

    journey through books @ gmail dot com

  11. I have heard great things about this book and would love to be entered to win!
    I follow your blog
    I follow on twitter @bangersis
    I tweeted
    email bangersis(at)msn(dot)com

  12. Hi! I would love this book :).

    My email:

    I follow your blog.
    I follow your twitter @faellie_lupe


  13. Book looks amazing. Please enter me
    Follow blog
    Follow your twitter @livindncngdream

  14. I'm a follower and I tweeted

    d.septer at insightbb dot com

  15. Sounds really good. Thanks for the chance.

    I follow your blog.

    I follow on twitter (@donnas1)

    Tweet -

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  16. I too like characters with special abilities; my favorite of those are the Dean koontz "Odd Thomas" books (all of which I have!) Thanks for the chance to win what looks to be a quick enjoyable read!

    jewell330 at aim dot com

  17. I am a public follower on GFC.

  18. Looks like a good book.

  19. Just tuned in to your site. Would love to read really sounds like my kind of book.

  20. new blog follower via GFC
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

  21. This sounds like an exciting book...different from my usual selections. Thanks for the giveaway.
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

  22. Sign me up!

    I'm a blog follower (Alannah P. Javier) and a twitter follower (@alannah7)

  23. I'd love to enter this contest!! Thanks!!

    +1 I'm a blog follower

    +1 i'm a twitter follower (in_the_hammock)

    inthehammockblog (at) gmail (d0t) com



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