Book Review: Burntown (Jennifer McMahon) @RandomHouseCA

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I was not quite sure what to expect when I started Burntown by Jennifer McMahon; I had heard notable praise for McMahon’s work but had never read any of her novels before. After reading, I have come to realize that if her other work holds any resemblance to Burntown, then I have been making a serious mistake! This book was captivating, original and had me gripped.

I am not entirely sure how to proceed with my review as this novel blended and bent any resemblance of genre. It had elements of the paranormal and a classic thriller; it also had coming of age elements and reminded me a little bit of post-apocalyptic dystopian novels.   Fantasy mixed with a feel of science fiction; truly, this novel ended up with a little bit for every reader.

Truly, this plot is too complex, interwoven (and, honestly, a little complicated) to give a true synopsis, but I’ll do my best to give you a general gist.

The novel opens with a story of a young boy (Miles) who witnesses the death of his mother; as he grows, and raises his own family, he begins focusing on building a machine that is the family legacy; a design of Thomas Edison that allows it’s operator to speak to the dead.   After a devastating flood, Miles and his son (Errol) are dead and his wife (Lily) and his daughter (Eva) find themselves displaced.

Years later, Necco, a young girl with a reputation of “eating fire” is living in the backwoods of town.   When she runs into Theo and their paths connect, they begin to dig into Neccos’s past and discover a plethora of family secrets and a connection to a family that makes her question everything she has ever known.

Sound a little confusing? You’d be correct in thinking so, but do not let the complexity of the plot put you off; McMahon is a master at weaving the story and answering all questions.

This novel did not disappoint and I would recommend it to any reader who is looking to bend their mindset and are open to a completely different type of thriller; I, for one, welcomed this eccentric read and finished it in a single sitting. 5/5 stars.

Thank you to the publisher who provided me with a copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

This novel was another #cjsreads pick so keep reading to see if Chandra and Jessica agreed with my opinions of this novel and to see what they thought!

What Chandra Thought:

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4/5 Stars
Miles watches his mother get murdered by a man in a chicken mask and runs him off by launching an arrow from the bushes. As he grows older, he meets Lily, who is the only one he can trust with his secrets. He marries her and has a daughter of his own, Eva. Eva is his little helper in his workshop where he creates various inventions – his biggest one being from the plans of Thomas Edison himself. He’s terrified to turn it on as it is supposed to allow you to speak to the dead. All he wants is to speak to his mother one last time to find out who killed her. During a storm, the machine turns on and warns of danger. The chicken man has caught up with him and now he has to fight to protect his family. And that’s just the first 30 pages.

BAM! The author just pulls you in straight from the get go. We get introduced to a variety of characters – from the Fire Eaters that Eva’s mom becomes a part of to Theo, a high school drug dealer to Pru, the high school cafeteria worker with a secret life. Throughout the journey, we begin to learn why they need each other, how their friendships get forged and what they do to protect each other as the chicken man gains momentum in finding Eva. The past comes back and she realizes that her mother wasn’t just spouting nonsense.

I am struggling to figure out how to write this without spoiling anything. There is no question as to McMahon’s ability to weave a tale and suck you into a story that keeps your nose in the book, eyes wide open, finger at the ready for the next page. I love the characters in this book and the first half really grasped me in a way that I had to pry my fingers from the book so I could get some sleep. There are spirits of fantasy, the supernatural and thrilling suspense. I was in it for a full 5 stars but then it went in a different direction than I anticipated. Want to know more that MAY be a teeny bit spoilery? Go to my blog.

What Jessica Thought: 

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Witnessing his mother’s murder by a man in a chicken mask. Talk about quite the opening to a book! Miles grows up to marry Lily and have two kids, Eva and Errol. Eva is his little helper in the workshop as he begins to assemble one of Thomas Edison’s blueprints (stolen by his father from his laboratory). This machine would allow him to talk to the dead. On the night of a huge storm, it comes to life on its own with a grim message, Danger. The man has caught up to Miles and his family.

Talk about quite the opening to Jennifer McMahon’s new book, Burntown. This all happens within the first 30 or so pages! It had me hooked from the beginning and I couldn’t put it down! It’s so hard to keep talking about this book without giving away major plot points or spoilers. So I’ll leave it at the intro and that Eva ends up changing her name to Necco (her favourite candy growing up) and moves far away. Years later, she finds that her past is catching up with her and she must face deeply buried secrets in a small town.

I have yet to read McMahon’s other books, but now I have to! I love her style of writing and how her story got going right away. It kept my attention and didn’t quit. The characters were well-developed and you could feel what they were feeling. The whole invention stolen from Edison was very intriguing! I loved everything about this one.

I give this 5/5 stars!
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8 thoughts on “Book Review: Burntown (Jennifer McMahon) @RandomHouseCA

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