***I received this ARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Astor&Blue Publishing.
When 22-year-old aspiring journalist, Emma Cohen, is forced to flee the comforts of her NYU student life, she maneuvers an internship from her father at his newspaper in Rio de Janeiro. There, Emma is immediately swept into a major news story–and a life-threatening situation–when a famous jungle environmentalist, Milton Silva, is mysteriously murdered.
Emma must now enter the Amazon rainforest with her father to investigate; both awed by the enormity and beauty of the Amazon, and appalled by its reckless destruction. Not only will Emma have to brave the primal world of the Amazon, she must fight to survive the kidnappers, villains, corrupt activists, and indigenous tribes that lay in wait along the ever-twisting trail of the murder case. Stretched to the brink, it’s up to Emma, her father and the dreamy news photographer, Jimmy, to unravel the mystery and live to tell the tale.
Amazon Burning by Victoria Griffith is a spectacular debut Young Adult novel. Griffith’s powerful rendering of the Amazon rainforest forms the perfect, wildly exotic backdrop for this extraordinary tale of a young urban woman coming of age in the midst of intense conflict.
+++I would not classify this as YA but more of a New Adult murder mystery or contemporary.
- This cover is beautiful. It captivates, the colors explode off the book capturing the wild and untamed majesty of the Amazon. (Though I’m not too sure about that black purse).
- The descriptions of the Amazon are bold, dark, and embrace the dangerous whimsy of the deepest recesses of the jungle. Between the landslides, the vicious animals, the uncertainty of life or death, it’s a precarious world that reeks of danger and corruption. The suspense mounts as each scene is laced with the unexpected and the anticipation of something sinister.
- Mystery, Nancy Drew style, weaves throughout the plot. There are clues that shout out, clues that are subtle, and those that are so seemingly random you don’t know what to make of them. The puzzle is tantalizing. You’re consumed with the desire to solve the riddle of the murder and everyone looks suspicious. It’s hard to know which characters to trust.
- I learned so much from this book. It was like being transported to a magical and slightly nightmarish dream world. Insight into the crime rings, the risks journalists take, the prevalence of guns and attacks on the streets were terrifying and enlightening. It really opened my eyes to issues in the Amazon in terms of environment and domestic crime. The Amazonian Indians, the Yanomami, I had no clue that they existed or any idea about how their culture words and interacts with the rest of Brazil. These tidbits of information were fascinating and show that Victoria did her research.
- Emma was an uncoventional protagonist. She’s headstrong and courageous but scared. She throws herself into stories, fighting for her career and refuses to give up on her dreams because something scandalous marred her image. Her fears are very real, of intimacy and trust but also her fear of what humanity is becoming and how we treat our fellow man. The scenes in the hospital were brutal, bleak, and disturbing but hopeful. There’s so much to be said about advocacy and the power a great journalist has in spreading the word and getting funding.
- Jimmy is a bubbly, sexy, and funny male lead. He’s playful at some points and extremely serious in others. He’s devoted to his photography and very passionate about using the photos to make a statement. Paired with Emma, this duo is dynamic. They accentuate each other’s strengths and calm their nerves by getting lost in their chemistry.
- The subplots were left undeveloped and although they played a significant part in character growth and overall personality, there was not enough discussion. For example, Emma’s father, Mike, as a journalist was kidnapped by the Taliban and tortured, leaving him with severe nerve damage. This was mentioned briefly but it says a lot about how Mike deals with Emma’s aspirations and the events that happen later in the book. There’s a huge disconnect between this story, the near-rape sexual offense and battery lawsuit, and emotions.
- Environmental activism is a prominent aspect of this story but merely discussed, there wasn’t any in depth exploration into the politics. It seemed like, at first, because of the way the story was set up, that this would be the foundational motivation and guideline for the entire investigation but it gets lost as smuggling exotic animals, kidnapping, and the illegal gold trade get thrown into the plot.
- The sex scenes alternated between flowery and blunt.
Victoria Griffith is the author of the award winning non-fiction picture book The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont (Abrams, 2011), which won numerous awards, including the prestigious Parents’ Choice. The book was recently translated into Portuguese for the Brazilian market and was also released in audio book version.
Before becoming a full-time author, Victoria spent twenty years as an international journalist, fifteen of those years as foreign correspondent for the UK’s Financial Times. During that time, she had fun writing on a wide range of topics, including Brazil’s Yanomami Indians, architecture, space exploration, the human genome, and the growth of the Internet. She even managed to fit in some children’s book reviews. Her most terrifying assignment was preparing lunch for Julia Child, who praised the Brazilian fish stew but refused to touch the blackberry dessert. Victoria lives in Boston with her husband and three daughters.