Hello from the Gutters of NYC
Son of Sam tormented the outer boroughs of New York during the spring and summer of 1977. Queens, especially, was feeling it because the hunt for the killer was centered there. When the blackout occurred on July 13th, the pot boiled over and neighborhoods were destroyed by looting and arson.
Nora Lopez is turning 18 in the summer of 1977. Until the murders started, she was just looking forward to dancing the night away at discos and being finished with high school. Now, she has a whole lot more to worry about than choosing which glitter top to wear.
Meg Medina's Burn Baby Burn is a genuinely smart, insightful novel not just about the summer of 1977 in Queens but also about a family in crisis and the struggle to be independent while also remaining loyal to your loved ones.
I enjoyed this novel so much. The historical aspects--the Son of Sam murders, the blackout and looting, and SoS's capture--were expertly woven throughout the narrative. Nora is an intelligent, complex narrator and her life is one that will likely be familiar to a lot of readers: she's got a single mother, a long absentee father, and her brother is quickly becoming more than just a "problem child". Not only this, but she's ambivalent about college (despite a genuine passion for carpentry) and her new romance is proving more complicated than she'd expected.
As a former (or always?) 1970s enthusiast, this was a delightful read. There are disco song references galore, some seriously good fashion, a little dancing, and many film and television shout outs. If you haven't seen Spike Lee's fascinating Summer of Sam, you should. It also touches on the ways in which the summer of
1977 was a breaking point in NYC.
I recommend this novel to anyone who has an interest in 70s culture, true crime, New York City history, or family drama. Nothing terrifying happens here, but plenty that can make you think and that surprises. The smartest move the author makes is to reflect the ordinary lives of those living in the city under the shroud of that hot, hateful summer.
This will be a first, but I have no readalikes to recommend. This isn't to say that Burn Baby Burn is especially original, only that I'm not sure any of my recommendations would be entirely in line with its content. I guess this is to say, "Just read it!"