After a freezing winter, a boiling hot summer explodes with arson, a blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam, who is shooting young people on the streets seemingly at random.
Not only is the city a disaster, but Nora has troubles of her own: her brother, Hector, is growing more uncontrollable by the day, her mother is helpless to stop him, and her father is so busy with his new family that he only calls on holidays.
And it doesn’t stop there. The super’s after her mother to pay their overdue rent, and her teachers are pushing her to apply for college, but all Nora wants is to turn eighteen and be on her own. There is a cute guy who started working with her at the deli, but is dating even worth the risk when the killer especially likes picking off couples who stay out too late?
Award-winning author Meg Medina transports readers to a time when New York seemed about to explode, with temperatures and tempers running high, to discover how one young woman faces her fears as everything self-destructs around her.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs; Domestic abuse; Racism; Murder
Booklist starred (February 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. It’s 1977 in New York, and almost-18-year-old Nora is about to graduate high school and is saving up for her own place. Of course, it’s not as easy as just moving out. Her Cuban immigrant mother, who only speaks Spanish, relies on her to navigate everyday life. Meanwhile, she coddles Nora’s firebug younger brother, Hector, whose short temper is getting more violent by the day. No matter what Nora tells her mother, she does nothing about Hector and faults Nora for his delinquency, and, before long, his terrifying, uncontrollable rages become too scary to handle on her own. Medina artfully links Nora’s escalating domestic turmoil with the infamous summer of 1977, marked by blackouts, sweltering heat, racial tensions, arson, and the Son of Sam killings, all of which simmer menacingly in the background. Medina weaves historical context throughout Nora’s first-person narrative, expertly cultivating a rich sense of atmosphere while still keeping her characters sharply in the foreground. Nora herself is wonderfully multifaceted—hardened by responsibility, delighted by disco, crazy about the handsome boy at her job, and, all the while, stalwart and determined to make her life on her own terms. Powerfully moving, this stellar piece of historical fiction emphasizes the timeless concerns of family loyalty and personal strength while highlighting important issues that still resonate today.
Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2016)
This vividly evoked coming-of-age story is set against actual events in 1977 New York City, when tensions rose throughout a city enduring an oppressive heat wave, culminating in the historic blackout of July 13th. Seventeen-year-old Nora Lopez faces an insecure future after graduation. The very real fear of an at-large serial killer is magnified by the violence at home, where her brother Hector’s increasingly volatile behavior is dismissed by her mother as merely hormones. College seems impossible: Nora’s mother barely scrapes by with her unstable (and decreasing) factory hours. Nora helps out financially with her job at Sal’s Deli but also manages to stash away some cash in hopes of someday getting away. For now, she escapes by hanging out with best friend Kathleen, going to the movies, and planning a big night out to celebrate their eighteenth birthdays. Nora even starts to fall for Pablo, the sweet new stock boy at Sal’s (and “a stone-cold Latin fox,” according to Kathleen), but the looming fear of a killer targeting young couples and the weight of her family’s secrets make her pull away. Nora is an empathetic character, and Medina depicts her troubled family and their diverse Queens neighborhood with realistic, everyday detail. Numerous references to New York’s budget crisis, arson wave, and “Son of Sam” newspaper articles deliberately ground the story in a real time and place, while an ample sprinkling of seventies disco and funk song references creates a brighter soundtrack for the dreams and romance of teenage girls, hinting at a hopeful future for Nora. lauren adams
About the Author
Meg Medina is an award-winning Cuban American author who writes picture books, middle grade, and Young Adult fiction.
She is a two-time Pura Belpré award winner, receiving the 2016 honor distinction for her picture book, Mango, Abuela and Me, and the 2014 medal for her young adult novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.
Meg’s work examines how cultures intersect, as seen through the eyes of young people. She brings to audiences stories that speak to both what is unique in Latino culture and to the qualities that are universal. Her favorite protagonists are strong girls.
In March 2014, she was recognized as one of the CNN 10 Visionary Women in America. In November 2014, she was named one of Latino Stories Top Ten Latino Authors to Watch. When she is not writing, Meg works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth and/or diversity in children’s literature.
She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.
Her website is megmedina.com.
Burn Baby Burn Discussion Guide
Around the Web
Burn Baby Burn on Amazon
Burn Baby Burn on Goodreads
Burn Baby Burn on JLG
Burn Baby Burn Publisher Page