New Booklist Review for The Firebug of Balrog County

Booklist Online Exclusive: October 5, 2015

The Firebug of Balrog County.

Oppegaard, David (Author)

Sep 2015. 312 p. Flux, paperback, $11.99. (9780738745435).

In this biting coming-of-age novel, a directionless teen turns to setting fires to find release from his rage and grief over his mother’s death from cancer. By day, Mack is a high-school senior with a loving but disconnected family. At night, he roams his rural town looking for things to burn. When he torches a derelict boathouse on his eighteenth birthday, it turns out to be owned by a local war hero who brings the arson to the attention of the mayor, Mack’s grandfather. The resulting public awareness campaign to catch the arsonist only fuels Mack to take greater risks to set bigger fires, with sobering consequences. This story centers on Mack’s cynically comic observations of small-town life; his manic joy when setting fires; and his pained memories of his mother’s long battle with cancer. Oppegaard doesn’t offer an easy solution to Mack’s problems, instead opting for a realistic and sensitive resolution that leaves on a hopeful note, with Mack and his family mourning their losses together instead of apart.

— Krista Hutley

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