Sunday, 27 September 2015

'Ashes To Ashes' (Burn For Burn #3) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

*This review will contain spoilers!* 

'I remember what it felt like to fall in love for the first time. You think you'll never love like that again. But you do. Life is long if you let it be.' 

After talking about the series I needed to complete a couple of weeks ago, I decided that it was about time I finished the Burn For Burn trilogy by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. I finished the second novel way back in March and I loved it much more than the first installment, so I've been extremely excited about this final book.
If you've already read the first two books in the series, read ahead - if you haven't, go and read them! 'Cause I'm going to do a little series recap before I review the third novel. So go, you non-series reader - shoo!
Right, recap time:

We follow the lives of three narrators - Lillia Cho, Mary Zane and Kat DeBrassio. All three characters want to get revenge for wrongs that have been enacted against them, which is why they team up: they decide to help each other in a brutal revenge pact. Lillia wants to get revenge against Rennie, her best friend, after she left her in a dangerous situation that resulted in her getting raped. Mary wants to get revenge on Reeve, the boy who bullied her to the brink of suicide when they were younger. Kat wants to see both of them brought down, as they've bullied her throughout her whole high school experience - but Rennie used to be her best friend, so that betrayal cuts a little deeper.
To start with, things are quite innocent. They decide to throw the vote for homecoming queen, stopping Rennie from achieving one of her biggest dreams, and they decide to drug Reeve so he will lose his football scholarship. However, when a freak fire breaks out at the homecoming dance, Reeve's leg gets shattered and it's unsure whether he'll ever be able to play football again.
Lillia feels terribly guilty - Reeve has been one of her closest friends, so destroying his dream doesn't sit well with her. Mary still doesn't feel as though she's gotten her revenge, so they force Lillia to care for Reeve and make him fall in love with her, all so that they can break his heart in the cruelest fashion. The only problem is that Lillia starts to have real feelings for Reeve, which leaves her torn between the pact with her friends and her first chance at love. Rennie isn't happy about any of this, because Reeve is the boy she's always been in love with - she leaves her New Year's party in a devastated mood, and ends up crashing her car and dying. Well... It's not strictly Rennie's fault that she dies - it's actually Mary's fault. She's distressed because she's just found out that she actually did die in her suicide attempt - she's just stuck on Jar Island for what seems like eternity. Because of her vengeful spirit aura, she's the one that causes Rennie to plunge to her death.

So this is where we start with the third book. Rennie's been dead for a few weeks, and all of the characters are pretty shaken up about it. Lillia and Reeve are trying not to be together, but are struggling with a battle against their feelings. Kat is focusing on college and getting off of Jar Island, trying not to worry too much about either of her friends - she knows that Lillia and Reeve will hurt Mary, but she thinks Mary might have moved back to the mainland as she stops attending school. In reality, Mary is biding her time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to exact her perfect revenge: she died because of Reeve, so she decides the only way he can repay her is to die. She knows she won't be able to do it herself, so she picks the perfect symmetry - Reeve needs to kill himself to properly repent his sins.
I feel very conflicted on how I feel about this book. It felt slow, because there wasn't much going on, but because the chapters flick from character to character and are often only five or six pages each, it meant that the pace of the novel was very fast and I managed to read this one much faster than I'd anticipated. Despite the speediness, looking back not very much happened - just a lot of leading up to the eventual conclusion.
I still absolutely love Kat and Lillia's characters. Kat is just a natural badass - she's been bullied and beaten down her entire life, but now she's managing to make amends with friends from the past and move forward in her life in a mature way. Lillia is also great: yes, she's betraying one of her friends to get into a relationship, but I think it's good that she knows the strength of her own feelings and is brave enough to follow them. I felt neutral towards Mary for the first two novels, and that didn't change in this installment - she might be the paranormal character, but other than that she doesn't get that many chapters in this novel.
The question surrounding the morality of revenge is a very interesting one, and I do think that these books will make you think about what you would do if you were in the situation. Mary is incapable of murder, but wants to convince Reeve to kill himself - where is the line and why is she able to cross it? If someone made you kill yourself, would their death really be the only way to give yourself peace? It's all very psychological. In the end, it turns out that Mary really needed to forgive to be able to move on from Jar Island, and that's also very interesting: even if it's the only way to move on from purgatory, could you really let your lifelong bully feel your forgiveness? It's just very tricky.
This was the weakest installment of the three novels, as not much really went on. I still love Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han's collaborative writing - I think it's very special and it's easy to fall into, which is something I don't find too often - but I didn't think it was the mind-blowing conclusion I'd been hoping for. The epilogue really did ruin things for me: instead of leaving the novel on a high note, the conclusion allows you to know what happens to the characters in the years following the events in 'Ashes To Ashes', but it means that there's no mystery surrounding the end of the novel. I was very disappointed, and really wished I hadn't read those three pages - it felt rushed and unprofessional to compress the entire future of the protagonists into just a few chapters. I know it was to give a full sense of closure, but it would have been stronger without it.
I still recommend this series, because I really did enjoy it, but I kind of wish I hadn't waited as long to finish it... I was expected a dramatic, earth-shattering installment, but that didn't happen.

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