Read Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente Online


The lives of four teenagers are capsized by a shocking school shooting and its aftermath in this powerful debut novel, a coming of age story with the haunting power of Station Eleven and the bittersweet poignancy of Everything I Never Told You.As members of the yearbook committee, Nick, Zola, Matt, and Christina struggle to capture all the memorable moments of their juniorThe lives of four teenagers are capsized by a shocking school shooting and its aftermath in this powerful debut novel, a coming of age story with the haunting power of Station Eleven and the bittersweet poignancy of Everything I Never Told You.As members of the yearbook committee, Nick, Zola, Matt, and Christina struggle to capture all the memorable moments of their junior year at Lewis and Clark High School amid documenting a horrific tragedy—a deadly school shooting by a classmate. But the shooting is only the first inexplicable trauma to rock their small suburban St. Louis town. A series of mysterious house fires have hit the families of the victims one by one, pushing the grieving town to the edge.Matt, the son of the lead detective investigating the events, plunges into the case on his own, scouring the Internet to uncover what could cause a fire with no evident starting point. As their friend pulls farther away, Nick and Christina battle to save damaged relationships, while Zola fights to keep herself together.A story of grief, community, and family, of the search for understanding and normalcy in the wake of devastating loss, Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down explores profound questions about resiliency, memory, and recovery that brilliantly illuminate the deepest recesses of the human heart....

Title : Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780062429131
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down Reviews

  • Catherine ♡
    2019-05-19 20:07

    Actual Rating: 3.75This book is so hard to review, for so many different reasons. Firstly, I love that this book (kind of) addresses the about school shootings - something that has been plaguing America in recent years and definitely needs to be discussed more.Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down describes the aftermath of a mass school shooting. It follows Nick, Zola, Matt, and Christina, as they all struggle to deal with the scars that they will have for the rest of their lives. But it's not over. One by one, the homes of the classmates who had lost their lives in the shooting go up in flames, and families are broken, once again.Matt, Nick, Zola, and Christina, all deal with these events each in their own ways, and recovering is much harder than they would have anticipated, especially when there are so many questions still left unanswered.I thought that the characters in this were very three dimensional, and it was definitely easy to feel the grief that they were struggling to overcome. Because there were four main characters, their personalities were evident in the way they dealt with their situations. I won't lie - there were moments where I was annoyed with how a character acted, but I had to remind myself about their situation, and once I stepped back, it was very easy to understand why they were acting the way they did.The plot for this, when I stop and think about it, really doesn't encompass much, because the majority of the story focused on emotions, which I think was just as powerful. I do have a little issue with the ending of the story, which is left pretty open-ended. Normally, I have no problem with endings that are left for interpretation, but I feel like the ending of this left me more confused than anything. I usually have no problem suspending my disbelief, but I think, because the story was set in such a realistic setting, the second it departed from that near the end, I became a little lost, especially when the story left my questions unanswered.Okay, now to the main thing that boosted my high review. The writing style. It is so powerful, so touching, and it was the one thing that really kept me reading the story. This book is also divided into several sections that are not all storytelling, such as character profiles, news articles, and even images, and I think these also helped in allowing me to get into the story. The writing style was extremely consistent throughout, and it really allowed me to feel the gut-wrenching pain that the main characters were experiencing.Overall, what I would say is this: read this book for the writing style. Definitely. But after being so emotionally invested in all the characters, I am still a little disappointed in the ending.

  • Javi
    2019-06-13 20:52

    I really struggled to finish this book, I was very close to DNF but I guess I was curious and stuck with it even though I was skimming through it by the end. First of all, the story is very disturbing: the aftermath of a high school shooting, the horrendous images and sounds that haunt the survivors- it really is terrifying and very depressing. Then the whole community's grief, only made worse by a series of seemingly unexplainable fires. It was just too much- layer upon layer upon layer of death, destruction, chaos and more and more grief. Without getting to know anything about the shooter and his movitations, the story simply got stuck in a never ending cycle of grief and misery and not even the twist at the end really makes up for it. As to how the story is actually written: well, it felt very disjointed. All the chapters use "we" as a narrator, which includes the four main characters: Matt, Nick, Christina and Zola but at the same time we get different POVs from each of them in a very chaotic way. There's close to no dialogue at all and what little there is simply repeats the same thing: How are we going to get through this, how can we move on...I would have appreciated more character development instead of the spiral of grief and sadness that invades every sentence. Obviously with such a premise you know you're not going to get rainbows and ponies but this was too grim and all over the place. Over all, 2 stars are all I'm willing to give it and if you decide to read it, please remember that it's very disturbing and depressing so make sure you're in the right mood for it.

  • Cindy
    2019-05-28 00:12

    3.5 stars. This book was a very intense and disturbing read for me. There is a mass killing at a high school. As the shooter makes his way through the hallways four juniors on the yearbook team take refuge under desks, behind doors, hoping the gunman doesn't target them. In the aftermath of the shootings these four students try to come to terms with what they saw and how do they now go on with everyday life. In addition to the mass shooting the houses and occupants of the deceased teens are burning down with no explanation. The story was very sad and haunting as lives of the survivors would never be the same. Just too much sorrow in their young lives and too many unanswered questions. Well written but very very depressing.

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    2019-05-18 23:12

    3.5 stars Valente's writing was thoughtful and beautiful while describing some truly horrific events surrounding a school shooting. I found it a hard but important read. Thanks to Goodreads' First Reads, I received an uncorrected proof copy of this novel.

  • Joce (squibblesreads)
    2019-06-08 04:03

    3.75 stars. So heartbreaking and the writing is UNF.

  • MJ Nicholls
    2019-05-18 20:08

    Is this the most chunderous book title ever penned? Or is it this author’s previous, By Light We Knew Our Names? There is something about that first-person plural that makes me recoil at the cloying horror . . .

  •  Megan • Reading Books Like a Boss (book blog)
    2019-06-12 02:53

    OUR HEARTS WILL BURN US DOWN is a poignant portrait of grief, told in the collective voice through the eyes of four best friends after a mass school shooting. While the story was not poorly written, the writing style was distracting at times, the novel was lacking in character development, and the mystery woven throughout was ultimately unfulfilling.I can understand the publisher's comparison to Station Eleven, one of my favorite novels, albeit a weak one. Zola, Matt, Nick, and Christina are all trying to come to terms with what they experienced within the walls of their high school. As part of the yearbook staff, they feel the pressure and weight of responsibility to adequately recount and memorialize the classmates and staff who were gunned down. But they lack the personal connection and memory of the very subject they're trying desperately to remember, much like in Station Eleven.The subject matter in this novel is disturbing and horrifying to imagine. The emotional response from the four main characters and the tangible, heavy grief felt by everyone was portrayed very honestly. I think the author did a beautiful job portraying those feelings, as confusing as they were for everyone involved. Each person dealt with things differently.Nick drowned himself in research, desperate to find an explanation for what was happening. Christina tried to find comfort in the arms of a boyfriend who didn't want her when her father and mother were too busy to provide it to her. Zola, the one who witnessed the most horror directly, refused to talk about it to anyone. While Matt, held tight to his parents and grilled his dad for answers, who worked closely with the police's forensics department.This novel could be described as a cross between a coming-of-age literary fiction novel and a mystery. But neither of these elements were executed well enough to be compelling and evoke the emotional response I was hoping for. The subject matter alone is emotionally haunting and heart-breaking. For a character-driven novel such as this to be effective, there needs to be great character development. While there was some development, there wasn't enough for me to connect with, and none of these characters were compelling to me.While the novel wasn't poorly written, the writing style was very distracting and it took me a really long time find my reading rhythm. The writing very introspective, which I don't mind per se, but it was too much. The long list of items, character profiles, newspaper articles, and long narrative passages of the teens' feelings that were likely meant to add atmosphere, nuance, and emotion often felt unnecessary.The unexplained house fires that only multiplied as the story moved forward was what kept me reading this novel. I wanted to know what was causing these things to happen. It was an interesting twist, as it only seemed worsen everyone's unsettling feelings. No one is allowed to start to heal because people keep dying. The answer to the mystery was yet another unsatisfying element to this story.* I received an advance copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.Read this Review • My Website • Facebook • Twitter • Pinterest • Instagram • Subscribe by Email****************★★UPCOMING BOOK RELEASES★★****************

  • Britta Böhler
    2019-05-26 22:55

    The premise was intriguing: four high school friends survive a Colombine-like shooting and have to come to terms with the event that changed their lives. But the book couldn't quite convince me, even though the writing was good. There was too much that irked me: the author chose to tell the story mostly in the first person plural (the 'we-POV' seems to be a thing among young writers at the moment), alternating with chapters in which one of the four friends' perspective was central (he/she) which didn't give each of the four much individuality, or distinguishable voice; the fact that the plot centers around an additional 'attack' (after the shooting the houses of the 28 victims' families are burnt down one by one, and they all die in the fire) adding an almost gothic twist to the story which didn't seem to fit; the rather stereotypical description of the psychological effects of the shooting (boyfriends get mean, others resort to sex, nobody talks, everybody is 'fine' etc); the postmodern quirk to add chapters with short essays about relevant facts, like burn temperatures, the workings of the human body as well as newspaper articles and the short texts the four friends write about their murdered classmates for the yearbook (I didn't particularly care for tricks like that when postmodernism was still considered hip). In the end, the story and the characters remained unmemorable.2.5*

  • Acacia Ives
    2019-06-13 01:06

    This book had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I read it in one sitting which was a saying of seven or eight hours in the middle of the night and I didn't get to bed until two or 3 AM because of the book it was incredible it was wonderful it was dark and twisted but it was really really important and he will hear more about it on my channel for sure

  • Erika
    2019-06-02 02:51

    I barely finished this. The beginning of the book was the school shooting, but that was just the first chapter or two. The rest was about four friends who work on the yearbook staff and it skips around from each of their points of view. They all sounded exactly the same. Not much character development and not much story left after the shooting.

  • Linda
    2019-06-13 04:20

    I can't believe I struggled through this mess of jangling sentence fragments and plot holes to see how this writer planned to resolve the mysteries, only to discover she never had any intention of doing so.

  • Amy
    2019-06-17 21:06

    This book, oy. I’ve read a lot of school-violence themed books since reading the nonfiction book Columbine. Most of them are insightful explorations of the topic that delve into the emotional struggles and triumphs of those who survive. Not this book. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who happens on this review, but I was livid at the conclusion. I literally yelled, “You have got to be fucking kidding me!” In traffic. The people in the next car stared. It was awkward. Just no.

  • Lace
    2019-05-25 21:09

    What the heck did I just read? Seriously I am so confused right now. I was expecting to find out who was starting all of the fires. But to my surprise, it never actually tells you. You are just left wondering while the characters just seem to move on and dont even care after they stop. And for the characters themselves, they were completely underdeveloped and boring. The writing style was so long winded it made the book very boring as well. It seems to me that the author was just throwing anything in there to make the book longer. Especially with the "A brief history of" chapters which add absolutly nothing to the story other than to fill pages. Halfway through the book, I ended up skipping those chapters completly because it was like reading textbook facts. And for the "twist" at the end, that was not a twist since it mentioned it probably 100 times throughout the book. I wish I could burn this book from my memory!

  • Belinda Missen
    2019-05-26 00:57

    A copy of this book was generously provided by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Where do you even begin with a book like this? Imagine you're at school. A normal day like any other and, in the blink of an eye, a number of your fellow students, friends, teachers, are taken. No chance to say goodbye, and no chance to grow old and drift apart as we often do from those we went to school with. That's exactly what happens here. We're treated to the story of four friends, students, all of whom who have seen and witnessed something differently. All with different memories, images burned to mind, and reactions. We then get to watch them all come to terms with these theories, notions, feelings, in the melting pot that is high school and, of course, being a teenager. I don't know that I would call this a coming of age story, though it certainly infers that this group of friends, and the entire community, have to grow up quickly, have to deal with things, and make sense of their new normal. This was strangely, if not beautifully written. I found the lack of punctuation throughout dialogue difficult to process at first - it took me until about thirty percent to be comfortable with it. I don't recommend it, but I can see from the writing style why the author has chosen this method. So, for that, I'm okay with it. I'm not entirely sure that there's much else I can say about this book without giving away spoilers and, given the newness of this book, I'd certainly love to avoid that. At times I found this book completely frightening, when you think of how easily something like this can happen. And I found it beautiful, and fantastic in the way that each character is given treatment. Pick it up, read it, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

  • Diana Iozzia
    2019-05-30 02:08

    “Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down”Written by Anne ValenteReview written by Diana IozziaI have to give myself a lot of credit for being able to get through this book. I always feel a bit unkind for writing negative reviews, but I just didn’t enjoy the book. As this hobby goes, I come across great books and I come across books I just don’t want to finish. This book took me four days to get through, and honestly, I’m surprised I finished it that quickly. Some books I can finish in two hours. Picking up this book felt like picking up a boulder.This book is sad, for the first 40 pages. After the unsettling and horrifying shooting, we’re subjected to poor, jumbled writing that’s so repetitive, it could have a drinking game attached to it. Drink every time Matt wishes he could talk to Tyler. Take a shot the eighteen times he describes in detail the girl’s body that he saw bleed out. When Zola and Christina have a weird gay moment. When Christina is mad at her jerk boyfriend. When Zola thinks about how she wishes she could take pictures, but it’s always during inappropriate moments, like the four funerals we read in deep detail. The storytelling is sort of diary-like, terrible first-person collective narration, that sounds like a long-winded graduation speech. We don’t know how to move on from this. Our town will never be the same. We want to know why this happened. We feel lost. And then, the characters’ prose is told in third person. It’s not as if the four characters are describing a particularly uncomfortable sex scene, it’s only told through Nick’s perspective. I don’t understand this dream-state, marijuana high-like narrative.There are so many lists in this book. The groceries that one of the characters used to make fajitas. The smells in Autumn. The items left behind in fires (2x). My next gripe is also certain chapters. They begin with “The Brief History Of”... They describe autopsy procedures, arson investigations, what bodies look like post-mortem, how the brain forms memories, definitions of fire investigation terms, how crime scenes are collected and catalogued. It’s so unnecessary. I can imagine it would be a 30 second montage in NCIS, but in this book, these are long chapters that aren’t necessary. If I wanted to know more about how police officers determine arson, I’d Google it! (Or you know, read an actual non-fiction, scholarly book, rather than just have it summarized through the fictional perspective of a sixteen year-old).The main premise following the shooting is the recovery of the students in the town. Our main characters are Matt, Christina, Zola, and Nick. They are the yearbook crew of their high school, struggling to memorialize the students and administration lost in the tragedy. I was originally fascinated by this premise, I hadn't ever thought what the yearbook committee's job would be like after such a horrible tragedy. Also, a completely unnecessary plot of arson: the houses belonging to all of the juniors who were killed in the shooting are burning down and killing the family members inside. The worst part is the useless police force. They decide that someone is clearly burning down the houses of the families affected. When do they start considering who's next? After about 5 families are killed. Do they fix the problem? Do they put the families into protective custody? Do they do anything? No. This is a useless plot point, and it just makes the story aggravating. If the author wanted us to hate her book, she's succeeded.Back to the dialogue. As I mentioned, the narrative is a bit appalling. I think the worst is just some of the actual quotes. I'm including them, just so you can understand my reasoning. We have a super important memory of one character recognizing his classmate's mother, because she once brought cupcakes late to a birthday party."His mouth a knife. His tongue and a picture frame and a slammed car door.""Christina grabbed a rock and pulled back her arm and hurled it at Ryan's window. A rock the size of a plum. A tangerine, an apple."The conclusion of this book absolutely ruins me. I struggled and it pained me to read every page of this, but the conclusion just made me want to burn this book to the ground. I don’t recommend it. If you’re looking for a book with sentiments about school shootings, please look elsewhere. I highly recommend "Only Child" by Rhiannon Navin.I received a complementary copy for reviewing purposes. Thank you to William Morrow for the opportunity.

  • Chris Blocker
    2019-06-17 00:00

    Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down shows so much exceptional writing. Valente is clearly a talented writer with great ideas. The plot of this novel is a solid idea. The prose is beautiful at times. And yet the whole novel is such a great disappointment. I hate to say it as there are novels that are horrible in so many ways and this work does not belong among them. Yet, I didn’t enjoy Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down at all.This novel just has too many quirks to succeed. The narrative constantly delves in ramblings about pop culture or the news. Perhaps these are meant to show the author did her research. Or perhaps, more meaningfully, they highlight how the world keeps spinning despite the tragedies at the heart of the novel. Regardless of the reasons, it doesn’t work. It disrupts the forward movement and is very out of place. Every five pages there are comments about the war in Iraq and the baseball season. “Will they ever find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?” Does it matter in any way for the plot of this novel? Even if this entire novel is all some allegory for the war in Iraq or something, it does not work.The other big problem is the characters. Their reactions aren’t believable. Their interactions with one another seem forced. They’re about as multi-dimensional as the pages they people. I couldn’t relate. They felt completely like caricatures.And then there were issues with overall believability. The way the community, the students, and the police react to the events that take place didn’t seem logical. The existence of this yearbook staff—four juniors without mention of a faculty advisor—who meet in places like bookstores to discuss the yearbook. It all felt so unnatural.And yet, the writing can be so brilliant at times. Ugghhh. I hate writing these kinds of review.On the plus side, I did like the ending. Guaranteed, some will find it lacking, but I thought it was satisfying. It provides enough of an answer and it captures some of the best writing in the novel.Overall, I strongly disliked this novel. And yet I can’t completely write it off. I’d even read something from this author again if I were given the chance. But if I recognize some of the same quirks in that future work, I’m telling myself now, I will give up before reaching the end.

  • Chris(tine)
    2019-06-17 23:58

    The premise had me more than intrigued. I made it to about the halfway point but I just could not continue. Although I liked the characters to that point, the writing style was a bit clunky for my taste. It made it difficult to keep all the characters straight and I just couldn't follow the flow. Others may like the writing style but I found myself at odds with it and struggling through each page. I would have liked to see it through and have seen how it concludes but I after more than 2 weeks struggling to sludge through the writing style, I decided it was time to pass. I'm disappointed but my TBR pile is just too backlogged to commit any more time to this one. :(

  • Jessica
    2019-05-23 20:10

    I was not a fan of this book due to the strong focus on how the characters felt and the lack of a plot. I didn't like that the shooter remained a mysterious, unknown villain the entire time however it is realistic that in the aftermath of a school shooting, not everyone will be able to answer the question of why everything happened. That being said, this combined with the unsolved mystery at the end made me wanting some concrete antagonist to dislike but there was none.The narrative style was distracting and unnecessary. There are a lot of chapters where the author just listed facts - these were boring and halted the narrative flow. The character reactions felt realistic but they remained unchanged throughout the story. It felt like all they did was ask themselves how they were going to get past what happened/constantly say that they would never get past how they were feeling. Again, it's realistic, but it doesn't make for an interesting story. I spent the whole time waiting for any resemblance of a plot to show up but it never did. The constant house fires and resetting of grief made the story very repetitive.The "twist" at the end was not really much of a twist. It felt like the writer didn't know how to end the story and just gave up.

  • Melon
    2019-05-31 03:57

    I guess I just need to stop reading books about teenagers completely. It's entirely possible the low rating here is largely because of personal bias. But I thought this book, centered around a high school mass shooting and subsequent related house fires, was potentially a book for adults. But it was not--at least, not for this adult. Maybe it's because I'm a half a life removed from the sixteen year old main characters, but I really think this book could've cut about half of the content right out and have been a better read. Of course, it's totally faithful to what teenagers are actually like; one hundred percent in their heads, wholly consumed with all the new emotions and feelings about their friends, their relationships, etc. And understandably more after a tragedy like the one described. But my God, their internal dialogue would be better described as an interminable dialogue! I had to skim the second half of the book. And I only did that much because I wanted to know the answer to the mystery: why were all the victims' houses and families burning to the ground? Spoiler alert: (view spoiler)[ THE VICTIMS' FAMILIES' CELLS WERE SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUSTING DUE TO GRIEF IN THE EXACT ORDER THAT THE VICTIMS WERE KILLED IN THE SCHOOL.(hide spoiler)] As an actual concept, I found this idea, frankly, stupid. If it was supposed to be "literary" and I was supposed to enjoy the poignancy of it, or find it deep and revelatory... I didn't. This may be a great book for teenagers (older teenagers--there are discussions of sex, sex scenes, masturbation descriptions, including a gay teenage couple). So, in summary, this was a book with an audience in mind that I was not a part of. If this was intentional, I would have appreciated a "YA" indicator somewhere--then I would have known to avoid it, and the author could have avoided this one star rating. I saw later in a separate area (or maybe this has been added after I saw the description) that it was billed as a coming-of-age story, and had I seen this earlier, I would not have requested an ARC. **I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for this obviously unbiased review.**

  • Marisa
    2019-06-17 21:04

    Every once in a while, I come across a book that hits the perfect note between "I have something to say" and "Let me tell you a story." This was one of those books. The inescapable thought I had while reading was that this school shooting is not unique. This shooter is not unique. In America, there's a new incident every week. If we're lucky enough not to be touched directly by these events, we go numb after a while out of self-preservation. This book rips the Novacaine from our hands and asks us to confront the reality of the lives lost, because these characters and their experiences are not abstract. Everything in here is brutally real, even the more supernatural elements. This book is not easily categorizable by any means, with genre or otherwise. In speaking with the author, the word that came up was "intangibility," and that sounds right. The book is concerned the power of intangible emotions, namely intense grief, and the horrific effects of bottling up such emotions, writ large. Within the first few pages, it becomes clear that the memory of the shooting never leaves these characters, and it's confirmed again in the beautiful final chapters, where our narrators say they've tried to forget and move on, move away, and haven't entirely succeeded. The first-person plural voice was especially striking. It felt like the voice of a community as a whole, struggling to heal in the midst of further tragedies. Though I've had days to gather my thoughts, I'm still a little at a loss for how to articulate it. It was beautiful and resonant and exactly the book I believe everyone should read. Yes, it's hard and intense and I definitely cried several times, but it also served to wake me up and remind me that mass violence is not a problem for tomorrow, but today.

  • Erin Cataldi
    2019-06-05 04:20

    Heartbreaking and painful, but beautifully rendered, this novel of a school shooting and it's aftermath through the eyes of four students will have readers hooked. Alternatively told through the omniscient "we" and through individual lenses of four yearbook club staffers, the whole story is slowly pieced together, where each of them were in the building, how they were affected, how they grieved, and how they came together to try and chronicle an indescribable event. As if the aftermath of the shooting that claimed over 20 students wasn't enough, a string of house fires ignite throughout the community, only affecting the parents and families of those that lost teenagers in the school shooting. These four, courageous, broken, questioning teens try to piece together their own and their community's sorrows. A wonderful read, not for the faint of heart. I received this book for free from Librarything Giveaways in return for my honest, unbiased review.

  • Paul Byrne
    2019-06-06 19:55

    Very interesting look at the aftermath of a fictional school shooting. It focuses on the people left alive and the impacts it has on their lives and relationships. I found the relationship between one character and his father very touching and the dynamics between the four main characters kept me locked into the story.I felt the house fire storyline was an attempt to add physical drama that wasn't needed I would have liked more character and less mystery about arson. The twist at the end was not very satisfying. I had figured out it was gonna be what it was about a third of the way in.On the strength of the characters and their inner stories, I would recommend this book.I received this book as a GoodReads giveaway.

  • Racheal
    2019-06-03 23:10

    Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down follows four teens and their struggle dealing with a school shooting while assembling their high school yearbook. There is also an added mystery surrounding a rash of house fires that follow the shooting. I felt sad while reading this but at the same time I felt removed from the situation, as if I were reading a news article. There is clinical information about house fires and added details about world events that I felt took away from the story. This book also has an open ending and it doesn't really give the reader much closure.

  • Jennifer
    2019-06-16 23:14

    Any book about a school shooting would be a difficult read, but I thought this book was amazing in its ability to describe the impact of such an event on the lives of all involved. I thought it was difficult and heartbreaking and tremendous.As someone who grew up attending high school in St. Louis, I have to say that the author captured that experience so perfectly that I was immensely moved by her descriptions of it.

  • Liisa
    2019-05-22 20:52

    Anne Valente´s short story collection By Light We Knew Our Names is one of my all time favorite books, so as soon as I heard that she was coming out with a novel I got very exited. The story focuses on four friends who work together on their high school year book and how their town faces tragedies beyond imagining, a school shooting followed by unexplained house fires.First of all I must say that I´m quite fed up with following the lives of teenagers. Valente does describe their struggles and feelings very well and none of the characters is unbearably annoying. Still I just didn´t always feel like getting in the head of a sixteen-year-old. Everything in that age is overly dramatic and depressing even without the tragedies. The subject is indeed sad, and there seems to be no light between the accidents. Sometimes I had to put the book down as I started to feel too distressed. I also wasn´t satisfied with the ending, the whole book slowly builds up for some big revel that doesn´t really come and think that some extra bits of action could have improved the story.But there´s a lot that I loved about Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down. Valente´s writing is just as incredible as it is in her short stories. It pulls you in, no matter the problems the story itself might have. Switching from one view point to another goes fluently and I didn´t think that there´s too many characters. Between the actual chapters Valente has included these short news clippings, character profiles and breathtakingly beautifully written descriptions of subjects like the way our brains work and the physics of fire, that gave well needed breaks from the story while also making the book feel more interesting. The themes though depressing, are extremely important as well. I thought they were handled well, but as my personal knowledge of the kind of suffering and fear the characters go through is non-existent, I´m definitely not the expert. And for that I should be thankful. So I feel a bit conflicted - there are a lot of things I liked and a lot of things I didn´t like. But in the end I came to the conclusion that overall I did enjoy Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down. It for sure gave me plenty to think about and told a story that´s going to be very hard to forget.

  • Lori
    2019-06-13 20:20

    Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down follows the lives of four teens, friends, members of the yearbook staff, who survive a mass shooting at their high school. The friends are scattered through the school in various classes and experience different events as the shooter wanders the school. Each begins to deal with their emotions as the days pass and they are drawn together, feeling the need to figure out how they will recognize the students who died in the yearbook. Then the fires begin. The first fire takes the home of Carolyn Black and the lives of her parents. Carolyn was one of the victims of the school shooting. Then another home burns, this one with another slain teen's parents and the family dog. Investigators scramble to find a reason for the shooting and connections to the fires as the teens stumble through the days, each struggling to come to terms with their new reality.The writing style initially threw me off, with the story told from the points of view of all four teens and the lack of quotation marks in the dialogue. As I read and got used to it, the style seemed to fit the characters and swirl of emotion that the book dealt with. The book itself was a difficult read, in part because I am a teacher and a mother and in part because the story just never caught my attention, never pulled me in to care that much about the students or the events.

  • Ursula
    2019-06-02 19:59

    Told in a combination of third person and an amorphous "we" narrator representing 4 high school students, the story is about a school shooting and its aftermath in St. Louis. The story was well-conceived and the teenagers' reactions somewhat believable (especially the mental replaying of what they had experienced and a sort of feeling of inferiority from those who had seen the least). The writing was clunky at best and completely off-putting at some moments. I looked at the back flap at one point to see if the author was a non-American and that was the explanation (nope, she's American). Overall the teenagers never felt terribly real, and the "we" narration, while in theory bringing the reader into the universality of experience, felt distancing to me.There were more than a few moments that left me just staring at the page wondering what kind of turn of phrase I had just read, but the one example that almost made me quit reading entirely was the one where one of the teenage narrators is asking his father about the outcome of a house fire. He says, "What of the house? What about his mom?" Who on earth says "what of" anything, particularly a teenager? I mean, I can't imagine any human being who is not quoting poetry or something coming up with that construction, but a 17-year-old boy is beyond ridiculous.

  • Jessica
    2019-06-18 03:51

    It's bad when you pick up a book that sounds good, but turns out to be terrible and you stop reading it. But it's worse when you're reading a book that you're liking and want to see what happens only to be disappointed with a terrible ending - that is this book. A school shooting at a high school in St. Louis, MO is followed by a string of unexplained house fires at the shooting victim's homes. Told from the perspectives of four Juniors, all friends and all on the yearbook committee - Christina, Matt, Nick, and Zola. As they each try to deal with their own trauma and experiences during the shooting, they are also on edge due to the fires, grief, and normal high school stresses. I didn't love the writing, sometimes it was hard to tell who the narrator was and there were no quotation marks for conversations. But, I was interested enough in the story and I wanted to know what was behind the fires and that was where the author totally dropped the ball. The ending is so vague and terrible that I was like WTF did I just read?! As another reviewer on Goodreads said, "I can't believe I struggled through this mess of jangling sentence fragments and plot holes to see how this writer planned to resolve the mysteries, only to discover she never had any intention of doing so." Definitely disappointing and I won't be looking for any other books by this author in the future.

  • Phoebe
    2019-06-12 22:04

    There's something about a first person plural narrative that very rarely works outside of a Greek tragedy. There are, of course, exceptions but [i]Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down[/i] is not one of them.The book deals with the aftermath of a school shooting that takes place in Fall 2003 and is set against the background of the early days of the Iraq War and a country still reeling from 9/11. This feels like it should mean something but it doesn't. A group of four high school students who are on the year book committee narrate the book as one.There's no doubt that this is a horrific subject to cover. School shootings are awful and unfathomable events. What makes someone pick up a gun and walk into a school full of their peers with the sole intention of killing? We'll never truly know. I can only imagine the horror and the grief of being caught up in such an event; the fear, the devasation, the survivor's guilt. The four main characters clearly go through such emotions but the impact is lost by the first person plural narration. This is something that has happened to them as a collective. The individual is lost. This effect is worsened by the complete lack of dialogue. We, as readers, feel entirely disconnected from the horrow of the events and the emotions of the community.The narrative also made it difficult for me to connect with any of the characters. At times I found the main characters dull, if not downright irritating. Why did they care so much about the year book when so many of their classmates had just been gunned down in cold-blood? Equally, the victims themselves just felt like names at times. There are character profiles of some of the victims, written by the year book committee for posterity, but not all of the victims. They all get names but they don't all get stories.As for the shooter, he too is only a name. There is no why. Maybe this was intentional but the lack of speculation about his motive is bizarre. Frankly this is where I thought the 2003 setting might become relevant but it never did. I'm still not sure why the story is set in 2003. This was obviously a deliberate decision on the part of the author but it seems to have no real bearing on the story itself. I generally believe that if you're going to deliberately set a story in a specific time-period there must be a reason behind it that directly relates to the story you are trying to tell. The only reason I could come up with in [i]Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down[/i] is that the year book committee are apparently narrating this story from some point in their futures, long after they have left high school behind but, again, this hardly seems to matter to the story. They don't reflect on the events or how they altered their lives.If I'm being entirely honest, the were moments throughout the book that made me feel uncomfortable and not because the subject matter is uncomfortable by default. The library was one of those things. It's impossible (for me, at least) to read a book about a school shooting without the ghost of Columbine there, ever present in the background. I wish Columbine hadn't become synonymous with school shootings for me but it has. However, the echoes of Columbine felt more like parallels at times and left a sour taste.As for the mysterious housefires, these felt entirely redundant and the scientific fact interludes, which suggested this subplot was going somewhere, were extremely dull and served no purpose (much like the house fires). A school shooting in itself is devastating. It just wasn't necessary to have a secondary tragedy, although I will admit that the housefires and the promise of a resolution to the mystery are partly what kept me reading. Unfortunately, this later proved to be misguided and in the end this book just left me cold.

  • Cheryl
    2019-06-19 03:11

    I wanted to check out this book back when it first was released. Thus the reason I was looking forward to reading this book when I got the chance with the paperback copy. In fact, this book is very timely now as it was back than. The story started out fine. There wasn't a lot of details spent on the shooting but this is because this is the point of the story to slowly drag out the details that lead up to the horrific event. Yet, this is not why I didn't care for this book. It is because I didn't feel any connection to any of the characters. This is a character driven type of story. Also, I thought that the story was a little depressing. Survivors were dying in house fires. This was sad. After getting almost half way through the book and not feeling anything for the characters, I put this book down.