A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn about the early days of the feminist movement and gain insight into the diversity of the immigrant experience: Nora’s mother struggles with English; her father, Frederico, has reinvented himself as the Americanized "Rick"; and her boyfriend Pablo’s family comes from a privileged life in Colombia.
Circumstances don’t have to determine your future.
Positive Role Models
Nora stands up to the neighborhood drug dealer and her abusive brother. When the time comes for Nora to choose a path for her future, she has the courage to choose the one who offers her a real chance to change her life for the better. The family’s African American neighbor, Stiller, is a feminist activist at a time when women (and especially women of color) were expected to be seen and not heard.
Violence & Scariness
While the specter of a serial killer on the loose provides a frightening background to the story, there are no graphic details of the Son of Sam killings. Nora's brother Hector has a history of violence dating from the time he was a small child. He's physically abusive (grabbing, shoving, hitting) toward Nora and their mother. During the blackout, there's looting across New York City. A boy sets a devastating fire.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
It's noted that Nora has lost her virginity (and regrets doing so with a former boyfriend). Nora and her best friend talk about having sex. There's kissing between Nora and her boyfriend, Pablo.
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Occasional use of "crap," "piss," "f--k," "bulls--t," and "dyke."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A drug dealer lives in the basement of Nora’s apartment building, and Hector uses marijuana and cocaine. Two of the characters smoke, and there are two instances of moderate beer drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Burn Baby Burn is a coming-of-age story set in New York City during the summer of 1977. For 17-year-old Cuban American Nora Lopez, it's a fearful time. At home, her single mother can't pay the rent, and her brother Hector is physically abusive. On the streets of her neighborhood, there's even more to fear -- fires set by arsonists, looting, and a serial killer named the Son of Sam on the loose. The novel interweaves issues still at the forefront of American life -- cultural diversity, racial tensions, domestic violence, drugs, and equality for women -- with the compelling story of a teen trying to find her way forward to a better life.
Is It Any Good?
A Latina teenager in New York City fights for her future in this gripping and relatable coming-of-age novel set against actual events during the summer of 1977. The characters who live in Nora's multiethnic Queens neighborhood are never stereotypical and provide readers with powerful lessons on race, cultural diversity, and the beginnings of feminism.
The iconic 1970s people, music, and movies (disco, Star Wars, and Farah Fawcett) woven into the story provide a bright and sometimes lighthearted contrast to the often dark times in Nora's life. Throughout the book, McCormick keeps the story focused on Nora and her struggles and never lets her become overshadowed by the sensational happenings of the summer.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.