How to Set a Fire and Why

Jesse Ball  |  Fiction


I grow weary of coming of age novels in which the protagonist loses both parents to not-quite-tear-jerking circumstances, and survives "in spite of it all.”  Lucia’s story, the main character in How to Start a Fire and Why, sounded so familiar, it bored me.

The publisher, however, spoke highly of her arsonist capabilities which, in my mind, made this novel sound intriguing.  (Am I really saying that?  I WANT to read about arson?)  The inside jacket states “Jesse Ball’s singular, blistering new novel tells the story of a teenage girl who has lost everything – and will burn anything.”

This is, well, a blistering lie!  (Spoiler alert coming if you want to read this thing…)  Lucia sets her first and only fire on page 281, exactly two pages before the end of the book.

What I did like about this novel is Ball’s quick and witty style.  With lots of white space, it is a very fast read.  Next time I want a fast read, however, I will pick up Time magazine and at least acquire some knowledge.