The Burn Journals

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Burn Journals
Brent Runyon
4.5/5 Stars

From the Publisher: In 1991, fourteen-year old Brent Runyon came home from school, doused his bathrobe in gasoline, put it on, and lit a match.

He suffered third-degree burns over 85 percent of his body and spent the next year recovering in hospitals and rehab facilities. During that year of physical recovery, Runyon began to question what he'd done, undertaking the complicated journey from near-death back to high school, and from suicide back to the emotional mainstream of life.

There were times that this book was difficult to read, simply because I have a fifteen-year old son. The teenage years are tough - I've been there. But, I hate to think that anyone could feel as hopeless as Brent Runyon did on that February afternoon.

After the debrieding treatments, skin grafts, and surgeries, Runyon begins healing emotionally. When he is asked why he attempted suicide, he answers honestly, "I don't remember anything about myself back then." It's heartbreaking to think that those feelings that drove him to hurt himself were so transitory.

Eventually Runyon makes it through rehab, the treatment center, and to high school. Once there, his friends welcome him with open arms. At this point, any thoughts of suicide seem far away. However, Runyon points out that the depression that haunted him as a fourteen-year old does return. As an adult, he realizes that he must ask for help. He is now in therapy, taking medication, and living a productive life.

Runyon's voice come through very clearly in this memoir - one of the main reason I enjoyed this book so much. His style is clear, honest, and no-nonsense. He tackles the difficult topics of self-worth, sexual activity, pain, and uncertainty - all without playing the victim.

I would highly recommend this book for older teens. The lessons Runyon has to teach are vital - and often not discussed.


Katie said...

I haven't heard of this book until now, but I don't know that I could read it - it seems like a very tough read. Since I don't know what would have driven Runyon to attempt suicide, my guess is that perhaps he was tormented in school?

Erin said...

Actually, he wasn't bullied. He was a popular student who was enrolled in the Gifted and Talented Program. At some point, his grades started to fall and he got into some trouble in school - these issues, along with a history of depression, contributed to his suicide attempt.

Although he describes the attempt on his life and the immediate aftermath, the real focus of the story is on his healing.

It is a tough read - but well worth it.