How to Set a Fire and Why - Jesse Ball

7 of 17
How to Set a Fire and Why
304 pages; Pantheon
It's nearly impossible to read Jesse Ball's new epistolary novel, How to Set a Fire and Why, and not think of J.D. Salinger's iconic adolescent hero/rebel/whiner, Holden Caulfield. Like Holden, Lucia Stanton—the impossibly sharp-minded and funny teenage lead of Ball's story—is irritated by the hypocrisies of adults, flunks out of school despite her intellect, and, even though she's antisocial, palpably desires goodness. But while the narrator of The Catcher in the Rye sounds exhausted, Lucia is the kind of agitator willing to stab a classmate, join an arsonist club, or become a budding communitarian anarchist. Her voice is unforgettable, and her heart generous, tender, true.
— Dotun Akintoye