Review: Burning Blue by Paul Griffin

Burning Blue
By Paul Griffin
288 Pages
Published byDial
Publication Date: October 25, 2012
Source: ATW ARC Tours

From Goodreads:

How far would you go for love, beauty, and jealousy?

When Nicole Castro, the most beautiful girl in her wealthy New Jersey high school, is splashed with acid on the left side of her perfect face, the whole world takes notice. But quiet loner Jay Nazarro does more than that–he decides to find out who did it. Jay understands how it feels to be treated like a freak, and he also has a secret: He’s a brilliant hacker. But the deeper he digs, the more danger he’s in–and the more he falls for Nicole. Too bad everyone is turning into a suspect, including Nicole herself.

Award-winning author Paul Griffin has written a high-stakes, soulful mystery about the meaning–and dangers–of love and beauty.

In my efforts to read more contemporary books, I’ve been on the lookout for things that both sound interesting to me and don’t involve dystopian societies, zombies, ghosts, witches, etc. Easier said than done, but Burning Blue struck me as a book that I’d be interested in reading. I mean, a girl gets ACID THROWN IN HER FACE. Or sprayed in her face to be more precise, but whatever. She gets disfigured in a brutal manner. A girl who has always been the most beautiful, the most striking, now stands out for a different reason.

The book itself is told from Jay’s perspective, which I really enjoyed. Not that there aren’t tons of great books from a female perspective because there certainly are, but books from a male perspective seem to be a lot more few and far between. At least in the YA genre. In addition to Jay’s narration, it also includes excerpts from Nicole’s diary, emails, notes from her psychiatrist, etc. Not overdone, but enough to add to the story.

While I expected the book to be primarily about how Nicole deals with the aftermath of the crime, I was surprised at how strong the mystery aspect was. Jay spends a great deal of time trying to sort out who is behind Nicole’s attack, running down suspects and hacking into private email accounts, websites, etc. His suspect list is fairly long – everyone was jealous of Nicole, after all – and it’s really interesting to watch him whittle it down. He even suspects Nicole more than once, although he doesn’t want to think that she could be responsible for her own disfigurement. I confess that I was really surprised when I found out who the guilty party was. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been, but I was.

One thing in particular that I liked about this book is that, with one or two exceptions, everyone is genuinely likeable. Granted as secrets are revealed and real personalities are exposed the shine wears off some of them rather quickly, but for most of the book it’s hard to guess who is guilty simply because none of them seem likely to be capable of such an act. And it would have been so, so easy to make Nicole into the caricature beautiful mean girl, but she’s not. She is a nice girl. She could get away with being a complete and total bitch and never suffer for it, but she doesn’t. She is kind, which makes it all the more puzzling that someone would want to hurt her. And Jay is fantastic. He’s got some issues of his own – both physical and mental – but he comes to truly care about Nicole and wants to help her, often at a cost to himself. He’s a great knight in shining armor without being too over the top doofy or ridiculous, and he’s got a bit of the bad boy aspect but he’s not really bad.

For fans of the big romance – which sometimes includes me and sometimes doesn’t – I really enjoyed the one in this book. There is a sliiiight love triangle but it’s resolved cleanly and quickly early on in the book and really doesn’t play a huge part overall. There’s no wavering between two awesome guys, no big overwrought showdowns. What happens is a slow to develop but sweet romance between two damaged people.

There was one aspect of the story at the end that felt somewhat tacked on and unnecessary, or at least could have been tied into the story better because I do think I know what the author was trying to do with it, but my complaint is really minor and more nitpicky than anything.

I wavered back and forth over whether to give this 4 or 5 stars so I decided to split the difference & go with 4.5/5 stars.

Leave a comment


  1. As much as I love supernatural/paranormal elements to a story, I like that this one features none of that. It deals more with the human aspect of a bad situation with a bit of mystery thrown in. Definitely sounds original and compelling!

  2. I’m so happy you liked this one because I’ve had it on my TBR list for a while and was expecting it to be good. Glad that’s confirmed! 😀 I’ve heard that his other book, Stay with Me, is also fantastic, in case you want even more Contemp recs. 🙂

  3. Interesting cover. Nice review.


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