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Review of THE BURN JOURNALS by Brent Runyon

by Rose Brock

Runyon, Brent. 2004. THE BURN JOURNALS. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375826211

At the age of fourteen, Brent Runyon came home from school one day, had a snack, went into the garage for a can of gasoline, took it into his bathroom, doused himself with it, and set himself on fire. As a result of this act, he sustained burns over 80% of his body. THE BURN JOURNALS is Runyon's painful, yet poignant memoir in which he shares the true story of his suicide attempt; this offering shares and vividly describes both his physical and mental rehabilitation, as he attempts to come to terms with his illness and later put his life back together.

Without sensationalizing the events, Runyon's nonfiction account is clearly unique, original, and fresh in many ways. He shares his experiences with candor, and readers are immersed in the events as they unfold. His voice, the strongest element in the work, remains authentic and honest throughout the story. Told in present tense, in a stream of conscious style, readers become almost hypnotized watching the events unfold while feeling powerless to change the outcome. This technique allows readers to journey with him from a path of self-destruction along a torturous and lengthy road of recovery. Runyon unflinchingly offers his gripping story with honesty and frankness as he shares his typical teen fears-- getting an erection while being massaged by an attractive physical therapist or wondering how he will ever be able to live life "normally" again--his strikingly painful story will be one that speaks volumes to teens battling their own inner demons.


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