A Thousand Fires

Tor Teen. Nov. 2019. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250301994.
Gr 9 Up–Debut author Price presents a heart-wrenching tale of a group of young adults in San Francisco who are trying to end the Wars between the three gangs of the Bay Area: the Herons, the Boars, and the Stags. A ritual happens in the city when a teenager turns 18: they might be drafted into one of the gangs to fight in the Wars. Valerie Simons struggles through the loss of her little brother, Leo, who was shot by a member of one of the gangs that run the city. Heartbroken and enraged, her mission becomes to join the Herons with her love interest Matthew, who is heir to the Herons leadership, to find Leo’s murderer. But the night of Valerie’s 18th birthday she is kidnapped by members of the Stags and is coerced into joining their group. Now Valerie must choose between two factions and two loves in her quest for revenge. The detailed writing style portrays characters’ emotions without overwhelming readers. Price manages to write a story not only action-packed and intense, but that also dives deep into serious subjects: cutting/self-harm, suicidal tendencies, grief, and resentment toward parents who aren’t around. The characters are all memorable and readers’ feelings about them will be constantly evolving. There isn’t a clear-cut villain until the very end, making the story unpredictable.
VERDICT Despite minor details that seem rushed, this is a fantastic read. Recommended for teens who enjoy urban coming-of-age stories.

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