HOW TO SET A FIRE AND WHY by Jesse Ball | Review


283 Pages

Why hello there. I’m going to start off this review with the actual blurb that was on the front cover and the main reason I bought this book.

“Echoes the beloved narrators of J.D. Salinger and John Green. . . . Lucia could be thought of as a young Lisbeth Salander, or a high-IQ, antiheroic Katniss Everdeen.”

— Newsday

Here’s the synopsis:

Lucia Stanton’s father is dead, her mother is in a mental hospital, and she’s recently been kicked out of school—again. Living with her aunt in a garage-turned-bedroom, and armed with only a book, a Zippo lighter, and a pocketful of stolen licorice, she spends her days riding the bus to visit her mom and following the only rule that makes any sense: Don’t do things you aren’t proud of.

When Lucia discovers that her school has a secret Arson Club, her life is suddenly lit up; she’ll do anything to join. Edgy, raw, and hilarious, How to Set a Fire and Why is a thrilling story about growing up the hard way.

Before we get started here, it seems (from looking at multiple GR reviews), that I am in the minority with my opinion.

Now, I’m going to warn you, if you aren’t fond of me completely trashing a book, then stop reading now. Thanks.


You have got to be joking me.

J.D. Salinger…really?


I wanted to like this one so, so much, but I just couldn’t.

You go into it, thanks to the blurb on the front, expecting a witty, wild story with an imaginative plot similar to The Catcher in the Rye, at least in some ways. I get it, I see what the author was trying to do here, but I feel it was executed very, very poorly. The number one reason?

Nothing. Happens.

There’s no plot, no story to keep you interested and wonder what’s going to happen next. Absolutely nothing. Just a narrator who over-explains and makes me want throw the book off my roof.

I think the main reason is that I felt the author was trying way too hard to copy what simply can’t be replicated. While I can’t say much for John Green, I can at least say the writing style is similar to Salinger, but it just doesn’t achieve what The Catcher in the Rye did.

The Catcher in the Rye being one of my absolute, all time favorite books, I knew I was probably going to be harsh on this, but with a blurb like that on the front, how can you not be? And comparing the main character to a “high-I.Q. Katniss Everdeen”…are you kidding me?

I’m going to list everything the main character was:

  • annoying
  • boring
  • repetitive

The “plot” that is supposed to take place is her trying to get into this Arson Club or whatever (as stated on the back of the book), but that honestly occupies, maybe, twenty pages of the book, and isn’t even that interesting. Her mom is in a mental hospital and she lives with her aunt and some stuff happens there, but nothing interesting, because I never cared about the characters. Nothing in this book made me care one bit about any of them.

I see what the author was trying to do, but by the end of this book I feel like I wasted my time, and Lucia was in the same exact place she was to begin with. I was never compelled to read forward, because nothing ever kept me in suspense. It was just a snooze fest.

Sorry not sorry.

I was hoping I would like it better the longer I put off this review, but it honestly just made me not like it more.

Skip this one, unless you’re into books that try too hard to be something they’ll never even touch and have a “plot” and characters who are boring and and do nothing to make you care about them.

Final Rating:

Untitled design



P.S. If you want to give this one a go, here you are.

8 thoughts on “HOW TO SET A FIRE AND WHY by Jesse Ball | Review

  1. This is a really great review and I have so many questions! Are they implying that Katniss Everdeen is dumb? Why do publishers always think it’s a good idea to market something as the next [really popular title]? Why isn’t the Arson Club a bigger deal if it’s literally in the synopsis?

    I hope your next book is better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, thanks!

      I honestly have no idea, as I couldn’t even draw the relation between the main character in this book and Katniss.

      This was actually in the section of the book store that said ‘THE FUTURE OF FICTION’. If this is where fiction is headed, then I must be waaayyyyy out of the loop.

      I feel the quote on the cover is completely ridiculous and misleading.

      I mean, I guess she talks about setting fires some, and there’s this really boring pamphlet she writes that takes up a small chunk (like 6 pages and it’s super boring), but I found nothing about this book charming.

      Liked by 1 person

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