Monday, January 17, 2011

L.K. Madigan, Flash Burnout, and a giveaway

We were devastated to read this news from L. K. Madigan last week. As a burgeoning talent in the YA Lit world, it is heartbreaking to think her life and career will end long before it should. Her debut novel, 2009's Flash Burnout, took home the much-deserved Morris Award last year, and in 2010, she published The Mermaid's Mirror.

We've been brainstorming what we can do -- what best way we can herald her work and keep her in our thoughts through this difficult time -- and we wanted to relink you to Kelly's original review of Flash Burnout, as well as bring you Jen's new review of this title. Likewise, we're giving away a copy of this title (form at the bottom). In addition, we have made a contribution to the American Cancer Society in her name.

You can check out reviews and additional chances to win Madigan's titles by stopping this week at GreenBeanTeenQueen, GalleySmith, YA Librarian Tales, and Fat Girl, Reading. There is also a fantastic post up by the 2009 debutantes here that includes a giveaway of 40 copies of her books.

Flash Burnout

Blake has finally found his first girlfriend: Shannon, she of the gorgeous body, sleek shoulders (Blake's a shoulder guy, what can he say?), and sparkling wit. It's all he can do to keep his hands off of her, dreams about the day they'll finally have sex, and actually truly enjoys her as a person, too. But then there's Marissa, Blake's new friend in his photography class, the one he can joke around with and share photography techniques with. And the one who comes to depend upon him when the "gritty" photograph Blake takes for a class assignment actually turns out to be Marissa's mother: homeless, meth-addicted, strung out, and skeletally skinny, someone in need of both finding and help. As Blake helps Marissa locate her mother, he becomes
inextricably intertwined in her life. But she's just a friend who needs his support, right? Then why is Shannon so jealous? And why is the pull of Marissa so strong?

I was absolutely blown away by Flash Burnout, L.K. Madigan's debut novel, the winner of the 2010 William C. Morris Award, which honors the year's best young adult debut novel. Blake's voice is spot-on, and if I didn't know otherwise, I would have thought that, due to this authenticity, Madigan was actually a male. Blake is the perfect mix of snarky, impulsive, thoughtful, and sensitive. As an aspiring comedian, he keeps mental tallies in his head of when he makes people laugh. And he's hormonal, yearning for sex and skin: "She's so luscious in her little white top--it barely reaches the waistband of her baggy shorts...I want to touch her like a junkie wants his drug" (paperback, p. 6-7). Madigan does not hold back from expressing the genuine urges that teenage boys feel. Everything is out there, which results in a genuine, true to life protagonist.

Another refreshing aspect of Flash Burnout is the supporting characters, especially Blake's family, who are not exactly what you would call normal. His parents are wrapped up in death--his father is a medical examiner who leaves pictures of bullet wounds on the kitchen table, while his mother is a hospital chaplain who regretfully knows the seedy side of town all too well. But it is the presence and emotional support of his parents that truly shines through, especially in a genre that all too often shuttles parents away or presents the token divorced, unsupportive authority figures. Blake's parents listen, they help and guide, disciplining Blake when necessary and asking no questions at all when necessary. His older brother Garrett is spot-on, as well: a condescending, tormenting sibling who nevertheless comes through for Blake when Blake really needs it.

Madigan portrays a slice of teen life that truly blooms to life on these pages. I honestly felt that Blake was a real person: flawed, despairing, yearning, and confused. Like many teenagers, he is impulsive and rash, following his emotions rather than stopping to wait for logic and reason to catch up with him. And these actions have consequences, ones that affect both Blake's life and the life of his friends and loved ones, consequences that are not even wrapped up by the novel's conclusion.

Maybe that's what I most loved about Flash Burnout--the realism and the open-endedness of it all. Madigan created a character so real and so genuine that he worked his way into my heart. And at the end, Blake's journey was left unresolved. So I can still see him out there, fumbling around, trying to find his way in life. Just like all of us.


  1. Thank you for sharing this news with us. I truly love LK Madigan's work and just blogged about her at Book Love.

  2. Thanks for making us aware of this news.

  3. Wow, Thanks for the chance to win something new. This sounds really deep.

  4. Thanks for the chance to read an inspiring woman's work. I wish everything I write didn't didn't sound so inadequate.

  5. I haven't had a chance to read her work yet but I'm glad that I have Mermaid's Mirror on my shelf already to get to! Great giveaway and fantastic support for the cause.


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