Thursday, October 6, 2011

YA Book Review: Melody Burning by Whitley Strieber

  • Reading level: Ages 12 and up
    Hardcover: 224 pages
    Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (December 6, 2011)

    Book blurb: Beresford doesn’t remember much about his past or how he came to live in the chutes and crawl spaces of the posh high-rise that shares his name. But when rock star and teen sensation Melody McGrath moves to an apartment on the fiftieth floor, he knows he has to be near her. Although she doesn’t realize it, Melody is threatened by more dangerous forces than her manipulative stage mom and the pressures of life in the spotlight. The owner of the glamorous building has been hiding a fatal secret within its walls, and Beresford puts all his plans at risk. Will Beresford and Melody be able to escape with their lives (and love) intact? 
My review: Could those noises we hear while alone inside our room at night be more than our imagination in overdrive? What if there was an actual person on the other side of that wall, listening, while your own ears pick up breathing that's not your own. Creepy, huh? That's what pop sensation Melody McGrath thought the evening she sits against her bedroom wall and hears breathing.

The lone witness to his father's murder, an orphaned boy grows up inside a ritzy L.A. building where his closest surroundings are pipes, crawl spaces and chutes. He learns to traverse through this maze of steel and metal in order to survive. Learning to sneak into residences through emergency hatches when the residents are out, he watches cable, eats, and gets by. That is until an angelic-looking female moves onto the 50th floor. Hearing her sing, Beresford (he took the name of the building) falls for Melody and watches over her through a cross hatch in her apartment. His life, as well as hers, will never be the same.

Melody, 16, thinks she may be going crazy, hearing sounds at night. 
As a successful pop singer rehearsing for a huge concert, writing material for her next album, and acting in a tv show, Swingers, Melody is uber busy and super stressed. To top it off, her mother/manager seems to exploit every situation in order to keep the publicity machine running. Their relationship is a roller-coaster ride of love and hate. She begins to detest whoever it is in the wall. When she walks out onto the roof one night in what may be a plea for help from her life, the two finally meet. She expects to continue hating this strange young man with overgrown, curly hair and intense eyes, but discovers she can't. There's something about him. . . .

 As she grows closer to Beresford, Melody gets closer to figuring out who she really is without the crowds or paparazzi around. While they spend more time together, a dangerous plan is hatched by a manager which could destroy both of them.

I was glad the author told the story from both main characters. At times Melody (who reminded me of Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana with some Taylor Swift thrown in) could be brash or self-centered, but she changes after meeting Beresford. There were some sweet and effective moments between these two as they fall in love. Melody's fondness for Beresford's innocence and the way he looked at things was refreshing. Also, the way he travels around the building, while strange, was cool to read, especially when he shows Melody his world firsthand.

 Burning is a novel you have to suspend belief and think "What If?" instead, but there were some things I had issues with. I found it hard to believe Beresford didn't act more savage-like since he had been removed from the effects of socialization. The scene where Melody pours her heart out in her songs, only to have Mommy Dearest toss them in lieu of a 'professional' songwriter was unbelievable. I think today's teen sensations would collaborate with a team of songwriters and where were the record company execs? I'm still not sure how to feel about Melody's mother and found her sudden maternal transformation by the end rushed and contrived. Beresford, though charming, occasionally came across like a super hero of sorts contorting around pipes like an invincible gymnast, especially during the climatic scene climbing the building. He reminded me of a mash-up between the intense Quasimoto from The Hunchback of Notre Dame combined with the mysterious Phantom (of the Opera).

Pushing my concerns aside, I still found Melody Burning to be a light, fast paced and interesting read from an admired horror writer making his YA debut, Whitley Strieber.

Rating: I liked it to an extent.

Favorite excerpt: "I have to get him out. I have to get him back. But I still don't even know where he is, and I have no name! I think I'm going to go totally insane here.

I want him. I can help him grow and become a real person. He is so innocent and vulnerable, and I am so upset that my brain is buzzing with images of him being beaten up pr screaming his lungs out in some cage. I don't think I can bear another nigt of the sleepless hell that I endured last night.

I tell myself, "Girl, you hardly know him--he's some kind of a freak who lives in walls," but then I remember the joy sparkling in his eyes when he looked at me, and I think love that pure has value.

Innocence like his is almost unknown in this world, and to touch it as I have is an incredible privilege. I want to take him in my arms and make him safe. And I can, I know I can. If only I can find him."

Cover comment: The photo may depict a scene form the story, but I'm not sure I would pick this up off a bookshelf.

Book source: Around the World tours

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