Content Warnings: self-harm, PTSD, anxiety, nervous tics, suicide ideation, suicide attempt, gun violence, gang violence, grief, depression, descriptions of blood and wounds, death of a sibling, underage drinking, drug use, unhealthy eating habits
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Shannon Price’s A Thousand Fires is a breakout contemporary debut―think The Outsiders meets The Iliad―that’s perfect for fans of Courtney Summers and Veronica Roth.
10 Years. 3 Gangs. 1 Girl’s Epic Quest…
Valerie Simons knows the city’s gang wars are dangerous—her own brother was killed by the Boars two years ago. But nothing will sway her from joining the elite and beautiful Herons to avenge his death—a death she feels responsible for.
But when Valerie is recruited by the mysterious Stags, their charismatic and volatile leader Jax promises to help her get revenge. Torn between old love and new loyalty, Valerie fights to stay alive as she races across the streets of San Francisco to finish the mission that got her into the gangs.
I’ve read some pretty incredible debuts this year and A Thousand Fires did not continue that good luck. Shannon Price has potential but she isn’t quite there yet.
We’re thrown pretty quickly into the main story and not given much background information to go off of. There is no introduction to the main character or setting before things kick-off and that made it hard for me to care about what was going on. Things were just suddenly happening.
When it comes to the characters it felt like Price barely scratched the surface. She tells us just enough to get by but never fully fleshes anybody out. There was such an air of detachment surrounding everything and I had a hard time keeping up with who was who. Other than Valerie and Jax I couldn’t keep any of the others straight.
The romance between Valerie and Jax also bothered me a great deal. Jax is a complete asshole and was creepy af. Towards the beginning, he just randomly grabbed Valerie and kept going after her even though it was clear she was uncomfortable and trying to get away. Then, Valerie goes into her room to find him with a pair of her underwear. The whole thing was incredibly predatory. But she of course fell in love with him anyway because isn’t that what girls are supposed to want?
These kinds of relationships are incredibly toxic and we have to stop painting them in a positive light. No, it isn’t romantic that he touches you against your will and rifles through your intimate belongings. When I was young, reading about these types of romances heavily influenced what I thought I deserved and it led me into some not great situations. We have to start doing better.
Overall, the entire story felt too repetitive. Nothing would happen for quite a few pages as the Stags just hung around their house drinking and playing video games then suddenly a huge conflict would appear without any build-up. Once it was quickly over the cycle would start again. The lack of build-up to anything and the fact that it happened so often made it impossible to care about any of the tension.
A Thousand Fires was a fairly quick read and that’s the only thing I enjoyed about it. Normally I’ll encourage you to give a book a try even if I didn’t enjoy it but with this one I can’t. The main relationship was too predatory and problematic and I can’t encourage that.
A digital ARC was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.