Tuesday, 4 September 2012

(You) Set Me on Fire by Mariko Tamaki

(You) Set Me on Fire(You) Set Me on Fire by Mariko Tamaki

Add to: Goodreads
Source: Penguin Canada for review
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Release Date: September 4, 2012

This is a story about college, about fire and also about love.
Allison Lee is seventeen and off to college in the fall. So far, she's been in love once (total catastrophe) and on fire twice (also pretty bad). Both love and fire have left their scars.
Looking a little more burnt chicken and a little less radiant phoenix, Allison takes up residence in Dylan Hall (a.k.a. Dyke Hall) at St. Joseph's College, where she discovers the true gift of freshman year: the opportunity to reinvent yourself. Miles away from the high school she's happy to leave behind, her all-female dorm is a strange new world, home to new social circles and challenges. Allison still feels like the odd girl out ... until Shar appears. Beautiful and blinding, Shar quickly becomes the sun at the centre of Allison's universe, drawing her in with dangerous allure.
Will Allison get burned again? And, if she does, what kind of scars will she earn this time?
I wanted to love this book for a number of reasons. It's a Canadian read. The author seems pretty great. There's girl/girl romance. When I first started the book, I was immediately captured. Personally, I love distinct narration in a voice that actually resembles what goes on in my own head and that's exactly what I found in Allison's. It's dramatic and chaotic, with exclamation points and capitals galore. The narration was easily one of my favourite things about the novel. I really felt it gave me a personal look at Allison's journey and it just felt comfortable, like reading a diary or something.

But while I liked Allison's voice, there was something about her actual character that just didn't click with me. I completely understood where she was coming from for most of the book -- her past experiences in high school and beyond provide a less than solid foundation for college and the struggles that she faces with her new-found freedom are realistic and believable. But I just didn't like her at all. While that's not necessary for me to enjoy a book, I do like to connect with my characters and that didn't happen with Allison.

A large part of that reason was Shar. Allison, for reasons beyond my comprehension, is utterly enchanted by Shar and they quickly form a very dependant relationship with one another. Then when things start getting kind of dangerous and unpredictable, it just keeps going. Allison doesn't seem to change anything she's doing despite the fact that Shar is clearly not who she thought she was and that there are actually (REALLY NICE) people that keep offering their kindness and friendship to Allison. I just felt like Allison had choices and she ignored them.

With some more character development for Allison, I think I would have enjoyed this one a lot more. It was definitely an interesting change to read about a college setting and the writing was quite nice. While it wasn't a favourite book of mine, I didn't dislike it, and I hope that anyone giving it a try will find it more to their tastes!

Cover Comments: I think it's an okay cover. It matches the story pretty well but I don't love the look of it.

3 Golden Crowns!


  1. Hm too bad it wasn't more exciting . The blurb sounds great and the promise .. well promising (duhh..) so when you cannot connect with the characters is sad .;(

  2. I got the chance to read the first chapter of this and was a little interested in it and then I just kind of forgot about it. It sounds a little disappointing, I'm like you and I really need to be able to connect with the characters.

  3. I really like the cover and title, and it does sound kind of interesting...
    I think I'll add this to my maybe shelf for now :)
    Thanks for the great review!

    Would you like to link this review to my 'GLBT YA Festival'?
    Here's the link
    GLBT YA Festival