~ Audiobook Review: Year on Fire ~

Published April 12, 2022

Author: Julia Buxbaum

Narrator: Kristen Sieh

Audiobook Length: 7 hours 32 minutes

It was a year on fire. They fell in love. Someone was bound to get burned.

The Spark: Just days before the start of junior year for twins Arch and Immie and their best friend, Paige, a spontaneous kiss shakes the very foundation of their friendship. But some ties run too deep to be broken by accidental betrayal.

The Fuel: Enter Rohan, new to Wood Valley High by way of London, who walks into school on the first day completely overwhelmed by his sudden move halfway around the world. When Paige calls dibs on him—he’s too cute to ignore—Immie is in no position to argue, certainly not after taking the fall for the disloyal kiss. Too bad for Immie that Ro feels like the best kind of familiar.

The Kindling: Former lab partners Arch and Jackson, Paige’s ex-boyfriend, have never considered themselves more than friends. But sometimes feelings can grow like wildfire.

The Flames: When the girls’ bathroom at Wood Valley is set ablaze, no one doubts it’s arson. But in this bastion of privilege, who’d be angry enough to want to burn down the school? Answer: pretty much everyone.

What secrets will people keep—or reveal—to protect those they love? This novel, set against the frightening backdrop of an encroaching fire season, sparks reflection about friendship, the allure of romantic love, and loyalty to family.

Can a single kiss change everything?

Year on Fire is a fun coming of age story that takes place at Wood Valley High School, a school for elites. The story is set in a world after the COVID pandemic without fully including it as there are comments about the time of isolation mentioned. There are four POVs: twins Immie and Arch, their best friend Paige, and new student, Rohan. There is also Paige’s ex-boyfriend, Jackson. Each character is going through their own journey that all intertwine. There is a complex dynamic between these characters. Arch kisses Jackson, but is not ready to come out, so Immie takes the blame. When Rohan arrives at school, both Immie and Paige like him, which creates a new layer of the drama.

The chapters go between each of the characters. They are shorter, though, so once the reader is getting into this perspective, the chapters switch. The topics were heavier than I thought when beginning this story, so they should be noted. Some of these are: abuse, neglect, identity, mental illness, relationships (romantic, friendship, and family), and coming of age. Some are heavier than others, but all were integrated well. As there are four perspectives, it was difficult to connect to a single character. I think streamlining this story by reducing the number of POVs would have helped me connect more with the novel. For me, it held the novel back as each POV felt unfinished. Their experiences felt genuine, but there was not a lot of time to explore them more.

The story starts off slow, which I can see many readers giving up early on, as I was almost one of them. Once the story picks up, though, it was easy to finish the rest of the novel. The plot of each character’s emotional journeys is mixed with solving an arsonist mystery. This was an interesting idea, and I loved the Southern California fire culture integrated as the fires have become almost normalized in California. The two pieces did weave well together, it is just unfortunate that the lack of depth for the characters due to there being not enough time to explore each of the four perspectives that held the novel back. The romances, friendships, and other relationships were all nice and I enjoyed each of them. Overall, this was a novel with excellent potential that just fell a little short.

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