Comics themselves tend to give me a headache if I try to read them. Fortunately, they tend to be made into pretty awesome cartoons and action figures, and my childhood was full of these, along with pretty much every other form of geekdom under the sun. And no, in some ways I've never truly "grown out" of my geek "phase".
So the idea of a comic artist getting revenge on a jerk by turning him into a villain in her comic project was very appealing, while his retaliation toward her promised the potential for a meaningful look at one of the most utterly offensive stigmas that any young woman can be branded with: being labeled a slut.
Blaze lived up to it's potential. It made me smile, laugh, cry and scream. But why am I still writing my intro? Let's get to the heart of this, shall we?
(Summary from GoodReads)
Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She's desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark's feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her "sext" photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now..
I like the fact that we get to see what is promised in the blurb from its mostly innocent start to it's start of healing finish. The way that the novel was structured allowed me, as a reader, to experience a certain level of dramatic irony, the sort of "knowing" one might get when reading a tragic play. I got to see Blaze and Mark's 'rise and fall', all the while knowing Mark is an absolutely craptacuar guy and that things are gonna go to hell.
Yet at the same time, I will admit that there were moments where I was smiling at these two, and in part even cheering Blaze on, all the whole knowing the consequences that were to cme. This, to me, is a mark (no pun intended) of great writing. If I hadn't felt this way, the build up to the main "punch" of the novel would have been irritating and pointless. And without that build up, the darker parts of this story would have lost a certain level of poignancy. Because I had time to grow to care about Blaze, the things that happened to her--regardless of what those were---mattered, the longer I read.
The other thing that I want to commend Laurie Boyle Crompton on is the way that the situation that this book escalates into is resolved. Slut shaming is something that does not just magically go away, and to have something happen that would just make all of the issues that Blaze ends up facing disappear would have robbed this novel of its credibility. By focusing on the healing going on within Blaze as a character, and the realization that those closest to her will stand with her even amid this nightmare, the story was able to stay real while still providing the reader with hope that Blaze will make it through this disaster alive (both literally and internally--living, not merely surviving) if not unscathed.
I totally loved Blaze and thought she was a fantastic protagonist. This book is told in first person, and as someone very familiar with marvel comics, her 'voice' was refreshing and it was very fun to see the world through her eyes. It amused me when something major would be happening and she'd be imagining what it would look like as a comic panel. Blaze is also a loyal friend, a good sister to her little brother, Josh, and learned to stand on her own two feet by novel's end. If she were real, we could definitely hang out at Comic Con.
The "soccer cretins", and most importantly Blaze's brother Josh, had a piece of my heart that just kept growing bigger as the novel progressed. Blaze and Josh's relationship reminded me a lot of how I was with my baby brother Shawn and his friends, although they were gamer geeks like me and our thing was hosting monthly gaming events called "gamer gatherings". I loved the mild bickeing and absolute rock solid loyalty these two shared. It was probably the most touching thing in the entire novel.
I wanted to whack Blaze's mom with a rolling pin and shout "bad!" or at least "get a clue!". She just plain sucked for about 90% of the novel. The grandmother was also annoying, but I'll let her have a get out of jail free card since she is elderly and that can happen very easily with generational gaps, etc.
As for the guys, they served their purposes. I thought both Mark and Quentin were both well done, but not in the normal sense of the word. Since we already know Mark is going to be a jerk, there is not really a lot of room for him to grow or change. As for Quentin, i admired his loyalty to Blaze during her ordeal but he seemed just the slightest bit tacked on for the sake of "Yay, YA romance!". Too bad, as I actually found what we saw of him likable. I wish there'd been a bit more substance there.
If you're looking for the greatest love story ever told, this isn't it.
What Blaze does very well, though, is exploring with honesty, compassion and courage just how wrong things can go during the teen years when a girl gets her heart set on a total jerk.
I don't think I've ever actually read a book for this blog showing, as I said earlier, the 'rise and fall' of a relationship. We experience this with Blaze, and personally I felt with (and for) her. I saw glimpses of myself in some of her behavior: the long term crush that is (likely) going nowhere, the elation if you think that guy likes you, the devastation when the reality that he doesn't sinks in and the desperation to make him yours in the aftermath of this.
Of course the real question becomes "Is he worth it?" and the answer is generally no. If likeing someone makes you feel like you're on a really bad roller coaster, with more downs then ups, its usually best to get off asap.
As for Quentin, I liked what we saw of his personality, but he was ultimately a "bonus" the author included to add a bit more bubble / happiness / sweetness to the overall story. I wish there'd been a way to dig a little deeper here because the character, and the relationship between him and Blaze, interested me but didn't develop enough for me to feel it was 'real' and not just a check box or plot device.
While the actual romance / HEA aspect of Blaze could have been better, the novel did an excellent job at putting forth the story in the blurb that I had actually come to read. At times touching and at times tearful, I can say this much: I was never bored reading this book because of Blaze's terrific narrative voice, the soccer cretins' antics and the very honest look at some very dark and real topics in contrast to this.
Blaze is definitely worth your time if you are looking for a book that will make you both feel and think. I'd strongly recommend that you check it out!