Book Review: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

cover to bonfire by Krysten Ritter
© Hutchinson, 2017.


Should you ever go back?

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question: can you ever outrun your past?” (Source: Goodreads)


After completing this book, I think it’s safe to say that my reading slump has finally come to an end. I devoured Krysten Ritter’s debut novel, Bonfire, with a hunger I haven’t felt in months. If you take into account that I’m from a small town of a whopping fifteen hundred people, it’s easier to realize how much I am able to relate to the main character of this book, Abigail Williams. That, and Ritter hits on some nostalgia too, because in a way, Bonfire reads like Erin Brokovich meets Sweet Home Alabama, with distinctly darker notes.

Character development plays a vital role in how a book turns out. If your cast is too flat, it makes the book a total bore. On the other hand, if you’ve got characters that are dynamic and, in the case of several individuals in Bonfire, two-faced, the book is far more likely to entertain. In this area, Ritter has excelled at creating that small-town feel with many of the types of people those living in small towns meet. Let’s face it, even with Abigail moving to Chicago, there’s always those people who get out. Sometimes they come back, sometimes they’re gone for good. (In my case, I chose to come back.)

Plotwise, Ritter keeps the ball rolling. I didn’t feel like the story was dragging at any point. In fact, it’s the way that the story continues to unfold that kept me up until three this morning finishing it. Bonfire plays host to a story within a story, taking the corrupt corporations one step beyond contamination and into a far deeper, far worse crime. Just when things appear over, an entirely new turn keeps the story going. I won’t lie: I nearly bawled last night while I finished reading it.

There is only one aspect of this book that truly miffed me, and it sorta deals with the romance aspect. As many of my readers know, I abhor romance plots. Especially those that seem forced, rather than natural. That said, I really don’t want to divulge any spoilers, but I will say this: for being such a strong, independent character, there are some actions that Abigail Williams takes in this book that simply aren’t natural. They feel incredibly forced and out of character, and I can’t help but think it’s there more as a cop-out for the final twist in the story than going about it in some other clever manner.

That said, after finishing Bonfire, I feel it is safe to say that this debut novel is worth reading. Initially, I nearly forgot I had it until I saw it was one of the options for this month’s Book of the Month Club (which is totally worth joining, by the way so feel free to click this link – you’ll get your first month for $9.99 plus an awesome tote bag). Considering I’m very particular, I almost chose it before realizing I already had it technically. So if you’re wanting to pick it up cheap, there you go. (I’m actually still debating grabbing it through Book of the Month Club myself, because hey! I loved it.)

I would like to thank Penguin’s First to Read program for providing me with a copy of this book for the purpose of unbiased review.

Rating: 💀💀💀💀

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