BIP’s Snips: Abbreviated Bookishness

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.)



  1. Sandra September 28, 2015 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    You’ve nailed this one very well.It was an eye-opener for me. My personal experience as a freshman was totally bland compared to this account and I’m not sure I would have survived it had it been anything like this book. It made me feel very sympathetic towards young people trying to find their way through what the book presents.

    • Buried In Print September 30, 2015 at 10:56 am - Reply

      *nods* That’s so true. Having just finished Raziel Reid’s When Everything Feels Like the Movies last night, I am feeling that all over again now.

  2. Naomi September 27, 2015 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    I like the way you wrote this.
    I was forgetting about this book. I think it was on one of the Canada Reads longlists, wasn’t it?

    • Buried In Print September 30, 2015 at 10:55 am - Reply

      You’re right. (I checked.) So was Skim, which is one of my favourites. And look at all the other good books that were longlisted, which I have yet to read…

      • Naomi October 1, 2015 at 9:10 am - Reply

        Ah! So Many! But, your lists are so much fun!

  3. iliana September 27, 2015 at 11:27 am - Reply

    I enjoy coming of age novels and this sounds like a book worth checking out!

    • Buried In Print September 30, 2015 at 10:47 am - Reply

      Me too, and this one written in such an engaging style that it’s hard to set it aside.

  4. Karen September 26, 2015 at 2:01 am - Reply

    You’ve given just enough hints to make me feel this isn’t your run of the mill campus novel. I don’t know anything about this author – who is she/he?

    • Buried In Print September 30, 2015 at 10:42 am - Reply

      Here’s her Wikipedia Page. I’m guessing the book most likely available overseas is This One Summer, as it was published just last year and has won a numbar of awards. Even if you don’t normally read graphic novels, I think you would find it very evocative and beautifully presented. And, you’re right: I don’t want to say much about the story because it took me by surprise — and I really liked that!

Leave a Reply to Sandra Cancel reply