A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
What's the story?
In BURN BABY BURN, 17-year-old Nora Lopez has the odds stacked against her. Her single mother is close to going under financially, her drug-taking younger brother is abusive to both Nora and her mother, her father has remarried and pays scant attention to her, and she doesn’t see much of a future for herself after she graduates from high school. While her best friend, Kathleen, is excited about going to college, Nora continues to resist pleas from her high school guidance counselor to submit college applications for herself. The one bright spot in Nora's life is a college boy named Pablo, who works with her at a local deli. Their budding romance plays out against a background of one of the most violent summers in New York City history. A serial killer named the Son of Sam is randomly shooting young couples -- couples exactly like Nora and Pablo, buildings are being torched by arsonists, and a blackout unleashes a torrent of looting.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about abusive family relationships. Do you know anyone who is being threatened or physically harmed by a sibling? If your friend is too frightened or ashamed to tell someone, should you keep their secret or ask an adult for help?
Serial killers are often the subject of movies and TV shows. Why do you think audiences are so fascinated by them?
Do you have friends whose families have immigrated to the United States? How have their experiences been different from (or similar to) the characters in the novel?
- Author: Meg Medina
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, High School, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Publication date: March 8, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 310
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 26, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love coming-of-age and diverse stories
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.