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How to Set a Fire and Why (Vintage Contemporaries) (Paperback)

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This is a stunningly original coming-of-age story narrated by the teen-aged Lucia. She is a witty, cynical (understandable given the hardships she's suffered in her young life), brutally honest, precocious, perspicacious, and complicated anarchist and wannabe arsonist. She's also probably the smartest person in the room at any given time, with an uncanny knack for spotting and exposing pretense. To read Lucia's thoughts is to be in awe of her mind, to feel compassion for her, to learn from and admire her (her rule: "Don't do things you aren't proud of."), to be sometimes skeptical of, but always intrigued by her ideas, to laugh at her astute observations ("History is just people behaving badly."), to be afraid for and yet hopeful for her, and yes, to love her. She is one of the most memorable characters I've ever encountered.  Thank you, Jesse Ball, for Lucia.

— From Jeanne's Picks


"Ball has created a voice that echoes the beloved narrators of J. D. Salinger and John Green. . . . With her tragic past, brilliant mind and subversive potential, Lucia could be thought of as a young Lisbeth Salander, or a high-IQ, antiheroic Katniss Everdeen, but with a better sense of humor." --Newsday

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.

About the Author

JESSE BALL (1978- ). Born in New York. The author of fourteen books, most recently the novel How to Set a Fire and Why. His works have been published to acclaim in many parts of the world and translated into more than a dozen languages. He is on the faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, won the 2008 Paris Review Plimpton Prize, was long-listed for the National Book Award, and has been a fellow of the NEA, Creative Capital, and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781101911754
ISBN-10: 1101911751
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: June 13th, 2017
Pages: 304
Language: English
Series: Vintage Contemporaries