Penguin-Razorbill, 2012

Mariko Tamaki’s (You) Set Me On Fire (2012)

Read: At the hair salon, on the TTC, standing in line: everywhere. Allison’s voice is strong and compelling. I could pick up this story and immediately fall into step with her, even if I only had a very short time to read.

Bad stuff happens. It’s Allison’s freshman year. She’s in residence at Dylan Hall (aka Dyke Fall) at St. Joseph’s and not everybody is adjusting well to campus life. Mariko Tamaki hones in on the disorientation that accompanies life’s transitions and fleshes it out brilliantly.

Loved: The sensitivity with which Allison recalls her first love (a relationship which predates her St. Joseph experience) and the contrast with the emotions she experiences with Shar on campus (and two friendships in particular, but I’m not mentioning names).

Would have loved more if…there had been even more of the “supplementary” bits, like the posters from the dorm. What was included worked well, and combined with the liberal use of dialogue it created the sense of a lighter, funner read (despite some of the darker, realistic plot elements).

Serving suggestions: (Why?) A full bar, with bad cafeteria food and greasy side-dishes. More to drink. Lots of chips. Still more to drink. (Dorm life.)

Fave quote: “It seemed that Shar and I were always on the verge of a fight. It was like one of those bad smells you notice in a restaurant and try to ignore, but can’t.” (She manages to capture the drama of coming-of-age succinctly and realistically, with just the perfect amount of angst for the reader to feel it without drowning in it.)