The Burn is full of nuclear fallout, roving gangs, anarchy, unreliable plumbing. That’s what Terra’s father tells her. She has lived her whole life in comfort in a colony at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. She hates it. And she would pay any price to leave. But when Terra finally escapes the colony, she finds out her father is right.
She finds a group of survivors that quickly become friends, and every day with them is a race for survival. When she witnesses and commits unspeakable acts, she has to decide where her loyalty lies: with the colony she despises or The Burn, where every day is filled with nightmares.
When WWIII began, the most brilliant scientists on earth devised a plan to save the human race from itself. In the case of a worldwide nuclear event, some of the human race must be saved. Of course, these people should only be the best, the brightest, the richest, or the most connected. Their plan? Create a series of colonies on the ocean floor, far away from the nuclear fallout that could occur up above.
Over a hundred years later, Terra feels claustrophobic and trapped in this world that her ancestors have built. Her father is a government leader for the Mariana Colony, and he, shares the old-school belief that the earth above (referred to as “the Burn”) is plagued by nuclear fallout. Any descendants of those who survivors of the blasts and remain on the Burn are savage and brutal people, so the colonists are terrified of the concept of returning topside. What is any teenager feeling suffocated, alone and misunderstood is going to do? Find a way to escape to the Burn, obviously.
However, in order to escape the life she so despises, Terra has to pay a terrible price, and once she reaches the surface, she learns that life above isn’t what she expected.
The first thing I loved about this book was the excellent world-building. The dystopian genre is getting cluttered with copycat themes and worlds, and the world-recovering-from-WWIII/nuclear fallout thing is definitely overdone, but the concept of a colony at the bottom of the ocean was incredibly refreshing. Elements of this book were very clearly based off The Little Mermaid (I couldn’t help but sing Kiss the Girl in my head anytime Terra and Dave were together), but it was spun into a whole new world plagued by apocalyptic problems.
Everything is told through Terra’s POV, and I found her to be an intriguing MC. As one who’s lived on the bottom of the ocean her whole life, she’s incredibly sheltered from the ways of the Burn. She doesn’t know basic survival skills, and she’s naive when it comes to boys, but the thing that makes her great is that she admits her faults (to herself). She tries to push through things, and she tries to avoid asking for help because she doesn’t want to be perceived as weak (which can be stupid). However, I thought this combination made her very relatable.
The supporting characters in this book all had their own interesting back stories, and Oldham managed to weave them into the story pretty seamlessly. Because Terra has had her tongue cut out, people naturally trust her with their secrets (who’s she going to tell?), so they naturally tell her their life stories, providing the reader with a lot of supporting character depth.
I also actually like that Terra is denied her chance at romance with Dave. Their connection seemed shallow, and I don’t think they would have been happy together, so I’m glad they didn’t end up together. She started off in the beginning saying that she didn’t want to interfere if there was something between Mary and Dave, and I don’t think she ever should have gotten in the way. I’m interested to see where things go with Jack in the next book (Infraction). I think he deserves better than sloppy seconds, but at least she didn’t just start snogging him at the end of the first book.
Although I enjoyed the book a lot, there were a few things that bugged me as well. For example, the insta-love concept always drives me nuts. Yeah, I know it was part of The Little Mermaid, but is it really necessary? There’s nothing believable about how connected Terra felt to Dave because she rescued him, and the way Dave latched on to Terra was just kind of weird.
Another thing that bugged me was how easily Terra was able to communicate without her tongue. Obviously without a tongue, you develop new ways to communicate. Writing, signing, gesturing, etc. are all viable options. I got a little annoyed with how Terra would “write” on people’s hands with her finger to communicate. I tested this theory with a few questions, and it’s painfully difficult to communicate with someone by doing this. The other thing she would do is “glance” questions at people. How are you supposed to know what question she’s glancing at you at any given time? I thought that was unrealistic.
Finally, the last thing that peeved me in this book was that to come to the surface, Terra had to pay a price. She could never breathe a word of where she was from, so she had to have her tongue cut out. When her sister wanted to come and find her, Gaea (who we find out later is their mother–big surprise, didn’t see that coming…not) made her…buzz her hair? HER HAIR? Terra had to have her tongue cut out and all Jessa had to do was to get a stupid haircut. HAIR GROWS BACK! I was livid when I read all about how sad Terra was that Jessa had to sacrifice her great beauty to come find her. The Burn was a fast-paced read, and I had a difficult time putting it down.
Overall, my complaints about this book are minimal (although it seems like I ranted about them for a while). I was intrigued by this book from the beginning, and it didn’t disappoint through the end. I give this book four out of five stars. I would recommend The Burn to anyone looking for a quick, fast-paced read or anyone who wants to picture singing cartoon crabs while they’re reading a good dystopian novel.