Brightly Burning

Autumn Stahl

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Today we commemorate the first official book-discussion meeting of book club for the 2019/2020 school year! Many students are excited and anticipating the books to come throughout the year, so what better way to celebrate than to do a review on the first assigned book this year? 

Don’t hold your breath, though. This one’s definitely a doozy. I now present to you a Jane Eyre retelling, Brightly Burning… a book I want to see brightly burning – in a trash can.

Title: Brightly Burning

Author: Alexa Donne

Age recommendation: 13+, as there’s mentions of alcohol and murder

Number of pages: 400

Let me start off by eliminating any chance of redeemability wiggle room for the author: it is not the plot or plot events that make me dislike this book. The actual story of Jane Eyre itself is fine. What I didn’t like is how Donne wrote Brightly Burning. There are many points of criticism to pick apart and poke at here so let’s not beat around the bush with this.

First off, there are multiple times during the book where the worldbuilding is just downright lazy. It contradicts itself in multiple ways and, in some sections, it’s just blatantly stated through character quotes (scuse me, hello? Ever heard of show, don’t tell? Apparently not) and in other sections the worldbuilding contradicts itself entirely. For example, how in the world do they have such extravagant clothing if they A. only have food crops and B. barely have any animals? It’s. Absolute. Nonsense. 

And don’t even get me started on the romance. If you can even call it that. It was more like cringe on steroids. I think, for those of you who’ve read it, we can all agree on what the most detested line of the book is – “Last night I tested your poker face. Today I shall test your heart” (or something along those lines). Come. on. What is this, a third grade romance fantasy?? Because that’s what it sounds like.

And the kissing. The way Donne writes about the kissing is so cliche and overdone. And the fact that they got married so quickly also made me a bit angry. How stupid can you be? The relationship is barely stable as is, and now you’re going to ask her to marry you? Please. This is one of the many moments where Donne sadly breaks my suspension of disbelief and reminds me of how this isn’t an immersive story, it’s just overdone words and phrases thrown onto paper.  Also, another random point that annoys the heck out of me, why do the Fairfaxes need their own private ship?? What’s the point of this??

Just because you’re writing a retelling DOESN’T MEAN your book is supposed to be unoriginal and riddled with cliche since it’s based on someone else’s writing. In fact, quite the opposite. It should take a story and add a tint of your own special voice to it. But no. Donne falls flat. Very flat. Immensely flat. Flatter than my suspension of disbelief did when she broke it. All she managed to do was make it a carbon copy of every other cliche YA novel out there with some Jane Eyre sprinkled in. 

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