Summary: Arrested for his graffiti tags and on his third strike, Thom is offered a deal. If he helps the police investigate the mysterious graffiti group known as the G7, his parents won’t be called. Taking the deal is a special kind of hell, because while Thom has free reign at night for his graffiti so he can attract the attention of the G7, during the day he must paint over his and other tags in an effort to clean up the city. Aura is a tagger herself as well as part of the illustrious group of G7, and is attracted to Thom’s tags. Once Thom infiltrates the group, truths are revealed and things start to unravel, but Thom and Aura are able to find some solace in each other.
Number of Pages: 192
Age Range: 15-17
Review: Okay, I admit that even after reading Burning From the Inside I’m still not exactly sure where I stand on the issue of graffiti. Is it art? Vandalism? At times it seems to be both. While I wanted to find enlightenment along the Kalpa Path as Walde intended, what I did pull from Walde’s story instead is the need to control certain aspects of our lives and, above all, to be heard.
It isn’t clear what has happened in Aura’s or Thom’s or even Story’s life to bring them to the place where they are. What is clear is the place they each find themselves in is a place where their graffiti is a comment on society, and also a cry for help. Graffiti is their unique way of screaming into the abyss they can see all around them.
There’s a lot going on in Walde’s book with the undercover work by Thom and the secret society of G7, but while at times I had trouble following what was going on, I loved Walde’s writing. Her skills with artistic description, her ability to tackle philosophical questions about our society and her views on the importance of reading had me pulling several memorable quotes that I have included below. I love when authors give me new ideas to consider, and Walde’s book means I will never look at graffiti in the same way again.
Mostly though, I wished things could have been different for the teens in Walde’s tale. The G7 and the youth detention centre provide friendship and a unique construct of family for Thom and Aura, but there is still the original pain of being neglected by their parents that haunts them. Their tags and nicknames are a way for both of them to claim who they are and announce it to the world, hoping someone is listening. Aura is on a quest to discover fellow tagger Story’s path because while she isn’t physically present, she is a mentor for the kind of graffiti artist Aura wants to be.
Aimed for mid to older teens, there is a lot readers will be able to identify with, as well as a complex plot that will keep the pages turning.
“For a moment he forgets himself, watching them. Under the streetlamps the insects swarm, points of diamond light, buzzing, brilliant white. He watches them, mesmerized, like they’re hundreds of matches flaring into flame, one by one. The train is now gone. Distant in his ear, his mind, his memory. The moon a dirty pearl hanging in the dark green sea of the night.” – Thom from Burning From the Inside by Christine Walde, page 2
“What I want to know is why can’t a girl just dance? That’s what I want. I want someone to just watch me dance and not want me for my body but for what my soul is saying. I want someone to want me in that way: the absolute magic of soul-bending love. The spark of that. Setting me on fire. Pure. True. Love like no other: the either of desire.” – Aura from Burning From the Inside by Christine Walde, page 11
“What O’Brien wanted was facts. Hard evidence. But the G7 was pure fiction. Everything they did existed in an imaginary realm, even thought it was targeted at the mechanisms of the real world. Which made it, interestingly, even more dangerous. The G7 belonged to no one except each other. They operated in their own world, within their own dimension. They did not participate in society in the way that everyone else around them did: they shifted time and space, creating their own story, together.” – Thom from Burning From the Inside by Christine Walde, page 86
“As I climbed the stairs, I remembered the first time I had been brought to the Library at the End of the Universe, shortly after I’d joined the G7. Chef had built the library himself, carefully selecting a collection of books in history, poetry, anthropology, philosophy, and art. He truly believed that one day books as physical objects would become obsolete, and he wanted the G7 to have a place where we could all come and read, without, as he called it, a ‘mediated’ approach. Reading, he believed, should take place in the body, not in the mind. He wanted to create a space without computers, without screens. A restful space for rumination, mediation. For dreams.” – Aura from Burning From the Inside by Christine Walde, page 141
“It wasn’t even the prospect of getting caught that really scared him, he said. Don’t you see? It’s what will happen to everything we’ve created, destroy everything we’ve built. They will erase our resistance. Make us irrelevant. As if we never even happened. They will buff us out of existence. Then they will seize control; dictate the public imagination. And then, he concluded breathlessly, they will win.” Aura listening to Chef BS’s fears from Burning From the Inside by Christine Walde, page 144
“Graffiti doesn’t happen in a void, Thom said. It’s a reaction. Against tyranny, hate, oppression. Yes, poverty. Crime. Why don’t you catch some real criminals instead of worrying whether or not your stupid city looks pretty? The G7 is the least of your worries.” – Thom talking to O’Brien from Burning From the Inside by Christine Walde, page 152
“Thom thought of his father, his mother. How little they knew about who he was, of how they never wanted to know. No one leaves home unless something’s really wrong.” Thom from Burning From the Inside by Christine Walde, page 190
Burning From the Inside by Christine Walde is published by Dancing Cat Books, (2013).