There's a lot to like in Elana K. Arnold’s sophomore novel, Burning. It’s one of the stronger dual first person point-of-view novels I’ve read since that narrative style has gained popularity. Its ending is incredibly satisfying and believable. And, Burning is a solid exploration of the idea of breaking free and forging one’s own path.
The events of Burning unfold during a single week the summer of Burning Man, around the nearby fictional (though realistic) town of Gypsum, Nevada. Gypsum is a company town, with everyone working at the local gypsum mine, shopping at a company store and living in company-owned housing. When the mine closes, the entire town shuts down with it, leaving its residents scattering. Local boy Ben is set to leave Gypsum thanks to a track scholarship in San Diego, while his family--along with most of his friends who aren’t so fortunate--are heading for Reno in hopes of finding work.
Passing through Gypsum with her family is Lala, a Romani (Gypsy) girl from Portland, who’s traveling with her extended family when they make a stop in Nevada to earn some quick cash telling the fortunes of Burning Man visitors. Lala’s at a turning point in her life; once she turns 18, Lala will wed her betrothed through an arranged marriage and leave her beloved family. With her wedding date rapidly approaching, Lala questions if that’s the life she wants, and if she really has any choices at all.