Burning Secrets by Clare Chambers

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Burning Secrets by Clare Chambers

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Interesting conspiracy novel that blends personal secrets with even darker ones, family loyalty, and personal grief. A slightly unsatisfying climax is made up for by an attractive central character and easy but elegant prose.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: March 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 0007307284

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Daniel, his mother and his sister Louie are escaping the city to spend six months on the isolated island of Wragge. They're all escaping something: Daniel's mother is still getting over a broken marriage; Louie is prone to black depressions and self-harming; Daniel has just been released from a youth offenders institution after a conviction for fire-setting resulting in the death of an old itinerant. There's plenty to leave behind.

But what is there to go to? Wragge is remote, quiet, uneventful. There's no mobile phone reception, their cottage doesn't have an internet connection, and even the TV works only sporadically. But what there is, is space and privacy. Daniel's mother can get on with translating Scandinavian crime novels, Louie won't need to show anyone her scarred arms and Daniel can breathe easy in the open air, now he's no longer confined.

The islanders are gossipy and slightly parochial, but they are unfailingly friendly and polite. There are no extremes of emotion on Wragge - everyone is calm, placid and happy. Nobody locks a door since there are no thieves. Teenagers aren't a nuisance because their well-equipped school and charismatic head teacher give them nothing to rebel against.

So why doesn't Wragge feel like a paradise?

Daniel's not sure, but the more he reluctantly reveals about himself and his past, the more he begins to feel that Wragge has more and darker secrets even than himself and his family.

I really enjoyed Burning Secrets. Clare Chambers writes with an easy but elegant style and she creates a genuinely creepy, slightly menacing atmosphere as the novel goes on. We know something isn't quite right - both on Wragge and within Daniel's family, but we're not quite sure what it is. There are plenty of clues and more sophisticated readers will enjoy picking up on them and watching events unfold and the effects they have on the characters.

The eventual confrontation is perhaps a little anticlimactic with things being sorted out perhaps a little too quickly and neatly, but this isn't really a novel that leads only up to one great big reveal. It's about secrets and how damaging they can be, about grief, it's about adolescence as a right of passage not a punishment. It will suit the thoughtful reader and the mystery lover alike.

Recommended.

My thanks to the good people at Harper Collins for sending the book.

If they like secrets and psychological mysteries or thrillers, they might also enjoy The Angel Collector by Bali Rai, From Where I Stand by Tabitha Suzuma and Deathwatch by Nicola Morgan.

Buy Burning Secrets by Clare Chambers at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Burning Secrets by Clare Chambers at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Burning Secrets by Clare Chambers at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Burning Secrets by Clare Chambers at Amazon.com.


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