Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire/NetGalley for sending me a copy of Burn Down, Rise Up for an honest review.

Summary

For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids.

But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention — especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.

Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city.

And the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. If the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart — or die trying.  (-from the publisher) 

History meets mystery

#SorryNotSorry for my silly rhyme. It’s just that Vincent Tirado’s Burn Down, Rise Up so wonderfully blends the very tragic history of the Bronx with a modern, supernatural mystery. This book is about systemic racism, gentrification, spooky subways and first love. 

Tirado cleverly moves from redlining to Santaria to Reddit challenges without it ever feeling clunky. The fact that the main character Raquel is doing a history project about the Bronx is very near lampshading, but it truly works. 

Tirado has set up the book’s in-world Reddit challenge, The Echo, very much like a video game. Their choice to do so really helped me connect with the story and visualize those moments. Except that the rules of the game sometimes had to be followed to a tee … and sometimes they didn’t.

Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado Book Cover

Writing with style 

My latest obsession seems to be storytelling specificity and target audience. Burn Down, Rise Up seems simultaneously for the Afro-Latine community and those outside it. For example, I loved all the jokes about running into danger being something white people do because … yeah. 

I would have loved to see more of Raquel’s relationship with her mom. Raquel’s early distress at her mother’s illness assumes they’re close. It’s not until the end of Burn Down, Rise Up that Tirado gives us lovely flashbacks that cement the relationship. 

Meanwhile, I adored seeing Raquel’s relationship with her father grow. As she started to understand why her parents broke up and see her dad as a human, that all felt very real. Realizing our parents are just people too is a big part of growing up. I’m always happy when YA novels address that. 

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Is it, you know … ? 

Yes, of course, it’s queer. I’m reviewing it, aren’t I? No, Burn Down, Rise Up isn’t about being queer any more than any book with a hetero romance is about being straight. As much as we’ll always need coming out stories, I’m glad Raquel’s story isn’t one per se. She’s got enough on her plate. 

Raquel’s friend group isn’t queer, but the way they accept her feels very Gen Z, and Raquel’s trepidation about coming out to her friends isn’t about being queer. It’s that she and her BFF like the same girl. Whoops. 

Should you read it?

Abso-freaking-lutely. I tore through this book. The rapid pace and the genuinely novel (heh) story just gripped me. History fascinates me, especially American history, and I don’t think history classes focus enough on post-WWII history. Burn Down, Rise Up is not for the squeamish, so do know that. 

Content warnings: blood and gore, fire, general violence, gun violence, misogyny, missing children, police brutality, police in general, racism, very ill family members.  

Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado is out May 3. Pick up a copy at your local indie book store or library. 📚

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