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How to Set a Fire and Why

by (Text Publishing)

(35 reviews)


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A startling, subversive novel about a teenage girl who has lost everything and will burn anything.

Fourteen-year-old Lucia is a young narrator whose voice will long ring in your ears. She is angry with almost everyone, especially people who tell her what to do. She follows the one rule that makes any sense to her: Don't Do Things You Aren't Proud Of. Orphaned and living with her elderly aunt in poverty in the converted garage of a large mansion, Lucia makes her way through the world with only a book, a Zippo lighter, and a pocket full of stolen licorice. Expelled from school, again, Lucia spends her days riding the bus to visit her mother in The Home. When Lucia discovers a secret Arson Club, she will do anything to be a part of it. Her own arson manifesto is a marvellous anarchist pamphlet, written with biting wit and striking intelligence.

The voice of teenaged Lucia is a tour de force: a brilliant, wrenching cry from the heart and mind of a super-smart, funny girl who can't help telling us the truth, a riveting chronicle of family, misguided friendship, and loss.

How to Set a Fire and Why is Jesse Ball's most accessible novel yet; after Silence Once Begun and A Cure for Suicide, the pyrotechnics on display here will dazzle.

Jesse Ball is the author of five other novels: Samedi the Deafness, The Way Through Doors, The Curfew, Silence Once Begun and A Cure for Suicide. He was a finalist for the 2015 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and a 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Ball received an NEA creative writing fellowship for 2014 and the 2008 Paris Review Plimpton Prize. His verse has been included in the Best American Poetry series. He gives classes on lucid dreaming and lying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

'Lucia belongs with all the great child truth tellers: David Copperfield, Huck Finn, Holden Caulfield... I loved her and I loved the book, every page of it.' Peter Heller, author of The Dog Stars and The Painter

'A young genius who hits all of the right notes.'Chicago Tribune

'[Jesse Ball's] works, though wildly different, are always mysterious, puzzling and incredibly interesting. How to Set a Fire and Why is no exception.' Readings

'In Jesse Ball's writing, there's no visible effort to create poetry. Yet there's beauty in the simplicity, in the story that's told, in the plight of one girl to find what's true.' Age

'This tension surrounding the question of which future Lucia will pursue drives the novel's overarching narrative: books or fire, creation or destruction... As Lucia teeters between these opposing paths, her internal monologue is both brooding and delightfully sardonic, cycling through countless rhetorical gags and biting observations that are often revelatory in their recognition of society's endless absurdities.' LA Review of Books

'Lucia is a marvelous creation and the richness of her voice -- its intelligence, its casual precision -- is felt on the very first page.' Boston Globe

'Extremely well done: swift, sharp-tongued and enlivened by cockeyed humor.' Wall Street Journal

'A brilliant portrayal of a girl who's quite aware of what she's going through.' Kirkus Reviews

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  • We started tracking this book on December 21, 2015.
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Additional Info

  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Lending: Disabled
  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • File Size: 5,200 KB

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