Brooklyn, Burning

Brooklyn, Burning

By: Steve Brezenoff
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books 
Publication Date: September 2011
ISBN: 978-0761375265
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 7, 2012

Greenpoint, Brooklyn was a place where love could blossom or wither for anyone, even a sixteen-year-old named Kid. Kid's hands expressed feelings through artwork or a couple of drumsticks whirring through the air. The year Felix was in the picture was during the summer of 2005. It was also the year that Konny took Kid's clippers and shaved the back of her head. "Boy in the back, girl in the front." Konny was a confidante and friend during times there didn't seem to be any on the horizon. Felix was a skinny junkie with "white-blond hair" Kid jammed with in Fish's cellar. He was the essence of love. After Kid was thrown out of the house they took up residence in the warehouse where all the losers seemed to congregate.

There was a Polish guy who lived there who was totally bananas, but the same could be said for Kid's dad. "I've got the only kid I know who doesn't know whether to be straight or gay or a girl or a boy or what." The uncertainly bought Kid a life in the streets that summer in a decrepit warehouse. It brought drinks from Jonny and sympathy from Fish, who had a soft spot for the disenfranchised roaming the streets of Brooklyn. The same could be said for Fish, whose cropped blue hair didn't exactly spell 'class.' She offered Kid the cellar to practice and threw a bit of food and work in with the package. It was just the way things were for Kid.

Fall followed summer, winter followed fall, and summer came to Greenpoint again. Things had changed and Scout had come in response to an old flyer asking for a band member. Kid's heart swelled at the light touch of his hand, the sound of his guitar, and beautiful voice. Felix was not far from Kid's thoughts, but the heart was being taken over by another. Kid didn't think anyone noticed, but even when Jonny was sotted he did. "You're smashed for this boy, huh?" Huh, yeah. There was fire in the Kid, but there was also something else burning in Brooklyn ... the warehouse. No more playing house with Scout. The cops were coming. Did Kid really start the fire? Would the innocent pay for the sins of the wicked? Was pain the only thing a kid like Kid had to look forward to?

The protagonist, Kid, is an androgynous character, one who the reader can assign any sex or sexual orientation they see fit. In my mind's eye Kid quickly nestled into a characterization I felt most comfortable with. The sexual orientation I could choose for Kid could be anything ... LGBTQ or even straight and at times it wavered with my own mood. The writing was masterful and captured the very soul of a lost teen who was eaten up alive and churned out by a society that, for the most part, disapproved of a life they didn't understand. The flashbacks were seamless and each chapter quietly riveted me to Kid's tale. One of the most telling lines, "I guess the division between these who maintain society and those who try to break it down has to stay firm sometimes," was stunning. Just what was Kid guilty of anyway? Living? Loving?

Quill says: This is a powerful, poignant coming of age story of Kid, a throwaway kid from the streets of Brooklyn.

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