The Burning of Cherry Hill

The Burning of Cherry Hill - A.K. Butler

Oh boy. Okay, this is going to be a really bizarre review. First of all, there will be spoilers. I just simply cannot avoid that. So if you read the blurb and think you might want to read this, heed the spoiler warning when it appears later on. There will be a lot of criticism too, but of a very personal kind. Because, you know, I get why people liked this book. I even get why it won an Indie Award. It's not about that. For me personally, this book was not an enjoyable read. I'll get to that, but first I want to talk about the genre classification because I believe it's super important.

This book was pitched to me as a YA dystopia. The blurb made me want to read it, as did the author's email which was very kind and considerate of my review policy. She promised that if I didn't like it, there would be no drama. I am very thankful for that. It's rare when it comes to self-published novels these days. Thing is though, I do not believe this is a YA book. Yes, the protagonist is a teen, but that does not a YA book make. It's far too graphic, brutal, depressing, and violent. I'm not saying that teens can't handle that, but I do believe the themes are too mature for a proper YA classification. There are brutal murders, execution killings, rape, lots of graphic tazings, torture, and it hurts. This book literally made me nauseous. I have never been this close to puking before as I was while reading this book. So no. I don't think it's a YA book. Would I have still read it if it was pitched to me as an adult dystopia? Yes. Because I like those too. But this book was just simply too much for me. It was disturbing, and I can deal with some amount of that but this book went above and beyond what I could tolerate. And as a teenager, this book would have had me awake at night, disturbed for a week.

 That's not the reason for the two star rating though. As a matter of fact, this book was hovering for me at around a 3-4 star the entire time until I got to the end. But once everything that makes you like a book disappears, I have to rate fairly. The climax of the book and what follows was absolutely awful. All the characters with significant parts are killed off. Every. Single. One. The final straw was the execution style killings of the two main characters in a courtroom. The citizens of this dystopian nation rose up to riot but Zay and Lina were shot anyway. As were their parents and their parents' friends. When a book ends like that, I just get angry. It wasn't necessary and I feel it was done just for shock value. The book had already had enough of an emotional impact on me and I was disturbed enough from the torture and other murders. I didn't need that too. It felt like emotional manipulation and it just made me feel awful. THAT is the reason for the two star rating. 

(show spoiler)

But you know, if you like that kind of thing, and you are a horror movie aficionado and you love brutal, disturbing things, it might not bother you. Because aside from that, it IS a good book. That's why I say it's personal. This could be the best book in the world for someone because I cannot criticize the writing or the story or the world building. It's pretty awesome. I did feel like some of the characters were cardboard and could have used some more development, but aside from that, I had very few technical issues with the book. No, it was the way it affected me emotionally that I took umbrage with. I did not like the ending and I felt that some of the plot points went too far. 

The book is scary because--though it may go a little overboard--these are very real issues that we face today. If the Patriot Act freaks you out, so will this book. If you think the government has too much control over its people already, this book will likely freak you out. The world building is explained and developed well. I didn't notice any plot holes. It may be glossed over a bit easily in a couple areas, but it makes sense and that's all that matters. 

I did, however, have some clarity issues with the writing itself. I do not believe enough attention was paid to the imagery. When you have a world as futuristic as this one, you need to make sure readers can picture what you are talking about. Some of the descriptions were vague and I had issues. Were the cars all hovercrafts? I had trouble picturing the register boxes too, as well as how the medics worked. Little things like that made it a bit confusing. This could have been fixed with a little more editing but honestly, it's a small thing, and for a self-published novel, this was edited pretty well.

It's tough for me to say whether I recommend this or not. For the right reader, yes, but if you are like me, no. It depends on what you enjoy in your books. I do want to thank the author for sending a copy to me for review. I only wish I had liked it more.