Monday, August 27, 2007

The Burn Journals

At age fourteen Brent Runyon came home from a bad day at school, doused himself with gasoline, and lit a match. Immediately, he regretted his painful suicide attempt. By the time help came he had already suffered second and third degree burns to 85% of his body. The stuff of dark fiction? No, the memoir of a young man whose story is as compelling as it is horrifying.

Though Brent survived, the following months were undoutbedly the most painful of his life. He went through skin grafts, burn treatment, physical therapy and psychoanalysis, luckily all with his family by his side. The question that everyone kept asking, and the one Brent couldn't answer was, why? Why did you do this? Slowly it becomes clear, that he was suffering from a terrible depression, one he could not explain to anyone, not even to himself. In the afterword, the author points out that his story of depression and the slow road to recovery is one that millions of teens could also tell--"the only thing unique about my story is the rather unfortunate and dramatic way in which it tried to kill myself." I'd beg to differ--his story is unique not only because of the method of attempted suicide but in the way he is able to recreate the thought processes of the teenage boy he was. For example there are the words Brent says, and the words Brent thinks. A world of difference lies between the two. There is the Brent who wants everyone to like him, and the Brent who wants no one to look at him. There is the self-conscious kid and the angry, confused kid who is capable of odd glimmers of deep self-knowledge. This memoir read like a novel, and the adult Brent never intrudes on the thought processes he recreates of his young self. It was both harrowing and enlightening and definitely worth the read.


Rebecca Hickman said...

This is one of my favorite books. Yours is one of the best reviews I've read.

Rebecca Hickman said...

Thank you for writing such a great review of The Burn Journals. It's a book I'll never forget.