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I'm immortally interested in cultural/literary deconstructions, feminism, anti-racism, South Korea, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes, Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones, food (including but not limited to maple butter, tomatoes, and toast), fairy tales, parentheses, paper airplanes, films and books.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Every flame begins with a spark. 
Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.

WHOA. Before I say anything, let me just say that I just had the biggest there's-no-way-you-weren't-inspired-by-insertwhateverhere moment ever when reading Wildefire. Surprisingly it didn't even happen until literally halfway through. Halfway through, complete with hideous orange jumpsuits, three supernaturally-gifted kids were went off to complete their punishment for the day.

Sound familiar? If not let me give you a hint. It rhymes with smifits. Rearrange those letters or maybe look up said description above, because man, oh, man that was a blatant rip off if I ever saw one. I mean, really? Really? Misfits should not be tangled with. The first season of Mistfits is an excellent example of what television for teenagers should be like, but it cannot be translated onto paper. Every character on that show is imbued with a little something of the person playing it and so, it just can't be copied without somehow losing its spark in the translation. The spark I'm talking about is the personalities of Wildefire's gang. Other than their obvious diversity, they all blend into your typical kids with pasts that don't translate at all into the present. 

Knight missed an awesome chance to build onto his diverse cast. To get past the in-your-face (albeit excellent) racial problems some of them held and ground himself into the problems this set up for them all. Raja, a popular, pretty Egyptian? I know plenty of popular Egyptians and they're all extremely smart girls driven with ambition and goals to make people see past their nationality and she seemed only interested in Rolfe. And Lily? Girl who's been transplanted from Japan with such a blatant and un-Japanese (FYI Yuri is the Japanese translation of Lily and a name a lot of girls have so there really is no reason for Lily) moniker? Why didn't she have the same problems the Japanese exchange students I know do? If she's lived in Japan all her life, wouldn't she have some rather unique traits that us of the Western world don't understand? Wouldn't there be droves of guys coming after her, since Japanese high school girls are so fetishized by American, European and even their own culture? Friends of mine have been hit upon simply because they're Asian and look Japanese (even though they're not). It's the same with Ade and Rolfe. No matter how much Knight wanted to point out the cliche of being a surfer, he could have gone past that himself. 

I know that they're all supposed to be gods but just like that insufferable trend in YA literature about reincarnation and finding your lost love, those are all past lives. Why aren't they different? They should be teenagers without having to define them as racially diverse gods. That part of the book turned me off completely when I saw Serena being referred to as "the little Greek". This might be ableism but I would have been more comfortable with "blind girl" rather than refer to a part of her nationality that was not explained to beforehand and that it was the best and only thing that could define her. It was actually even more infuriating that her blindness didn't seem to have affected her life all that much. I liked that she said that most people wouldn't have cared (to help as she was being kidnapped) and then it goes onto being ignored because it's simply part of her being a goddess. Like it doesn't matter. Even though she's still blind! Having powers is no excuse to shove that aside. And the other characters . . . let's just say that they all kind of blended in. Snarky, sarcastic, sardonic, yes, they were that redundant.

One thing is for sure, Ash is one angry kid.

Don't get me wrong. I love anger. I myself write angry characters. On a whole, angry girls are better than passive, backbone-less heroines. But there are sometimes when Ash just doesn't make sense. I wish I could have been given a better outlook on her thoughts. I think actually a whole lot of what she did could have been much more understandable if the novel had been written in the first person. Although taking in context the subject matter and the scope of just what Ash is, the chosen perspective makes sense. 

OK, is it just me or has there been a sudden influx in the nicknaming of every YA heroine "Ash"? There's Wicked Lovely's Ash, Ash's Ash, and now Wildefire's Ash. It's kind of mindbogglingly really. Is there really no other cool-sounding nickname? I find that here the naming is appropriate; her power and her name relate to one another. Fire=Ash. Right? So what is this "Ashline" business? I checked on the Internet and although that isn't the best kind of resource on Earth, I couldn't find anything that suggested it was a human name. In fact, Google suggested I use Ashlyn and that's when it finally hit me, after about three hundred pages of wanting to cross out "Ashline", that it was actually just another quirked up name. That was extremely disappointing, especially since both Ash and Eve's "island roots" are touted throughout the book. I mean, the fact that they're adopted and not the product of the usual American couple means they could've had much more race-specific names, names that could have just as European ones meant something. Then again, this is paranormal. I should be glad for the fact Ash is even Polynesian to start with. Sigh. All right, rant over.

Their powers are something else as well. The one thing you can find are not linked to Misfits is in the way they utilize them. In other words, the fact that they suddenly have mastery over  telekinesis and making things appear out of thin air when a short while ago they were having a hard time believing all of this even existed. If there's one thing I hate in the paranormal books of late it's how easily the characters understand their powers. if it was explained, like maybe on The Last Airbender where Aang goes into a trance where all his older, experienced ancestors take control of his body and his powers leaving him in the backseat, this sudden mastery would make much more sense. But alas this is not the case.

The dialogue was also something that made me uncomfortable. Not that it didn't make me laugh at some parts. It was just that it was a little bit mature for their age. As in, teenagers I knew didn't talk like that unless they were hidden perpetually behind SAT books. Had I not known their real ages, I would've thought them to be college students. Then there's the whole cheesiness factor. Yes, it is difficult to write frightening and wrenching scenes without them becoming inevitably cliche but I find that Wildefire suffers from it whenever Ash is either in a nightmare or backed into a corner by someone or something. As I am a college student, I find that none of these kids, Ash included, sound especially like high school teenagers but more like my smart and sometimes reckless friends. It was just something that bothered me throughout the book.

Now let's talk about Ash's sister, Eve, because other than the fact that she's completely and totally kickass, she should be locked up. I don't care if she is a goddess. Someone should 1) give her a mental analysis and figure out that she's a sociopath and 2) toss her into the deepest crevice in the Pacific Ocean where she can rage forevermore. I appreciate that for once the villain is related to the protagnist. I'm glad that for once someone's showing that just because someone's blood-related to you doesn't mean they're going to go Oh, I love you. I can't hurt you even though you basically knocked a girl's teeth over my school's parking lot and killed her in my name. Because sometimes, relatives are assholes, plain and simple. Yes, even sisters.

Now about Colt, the love interest. When Colt climbed into Ash's bedroom, it assured the demotion of the following star. I'm sorry but the fact that even if it was just a dream, Ash was turned on is wrong. How do you not find it wrong that a college student is stalking a high school student? Can you say jailbait? Not to mention the declaration of insta-love. Of course the ending changed ALL of that. I literally reached the last line and went ASLKDASKDFLUDVNDILWEAJS NO WAY. I swear, the only reason why this book has three star is for the three of the best surprises to hit you. If there's one thing that Knight did absolutely terrifically in this book it was the twist because oh my soul were they ever insanely good. Insanely. And just because of that, I'm going to read the next. Yes, despite my many greivances, I'm reading the next one, why? Because Knight knows how to write well enough to keep going and only at the end does he throw the best punches at you. 

The real misgiving I had with this book was the hype. It didn't live up to the hype, and I hate it when a book does that. And then there's the pacing and that even though Ash knows she's a goddess about a third way through, she does nothing for the entire book. I mean seriously, she pretty much just breaks school rules, dates older men, plays tennis, fights with her sister and attends a school dance. Yeah, you know, everything I would do if I found out I was a fire goddess. It isn't until 3/4 of the way through that she even tries to find out who she is. Sigh. As much as I hate it, I recommend this book for the ending and the diverse albeit shallow main characters.

All in all=☆☆☆

*This was an ARC provided by Simon & Schuster publishing.
**This summary was taken from Goodreads.

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