Set in Rabbit, Utah, When Giants Burn by Beth Vrabel tells the story of two tweens who know that feelings aren’t temporary like their school counsellor Mrs. Freid claims. Both Hayes and Gerty know that “sometimes feelings twist and tunnel. Sometimes they wrap themselves into every bit of a person, locking them into a place where nothing else can grow” (214).
Afraid of losing his mother to addiction and a life of crime again, Hayes is struggling to form a relationship with his ex-con mother. Untethered and unable to forgive and forget her abandonment, Hayes wears his anger like armor.
An independent and largely self-sufficient sixth grader who prides herself on being the one who notices the most, Gerty is attending public school so as to learn “about society and its meaninglessness” and to hopefully “solidify within [her] the desire to leave the social fabric behind” (3). Although she and her survivalist family live off the grid, focused on prepping for end-times, Gerty craves connections and would rather set down roots. She also wants to know why her parents insist that she call them Alex and Jennifer instead of Mom and Dad.
To fill the gaps, she has Nanny Pat, her maternal grandmother, who supports Gerty in building an ultralight airplane that she can fly to qualify for the Civil Air Patrol.
Thrust together by their friendlessness and alienation of others, Gerty and Hayes begin to form a friendship. Bonded by their memories of trees, tired of grownups who steal their choices, and determined to see Pando before a wildfire destroys the legendary tree community near Fishlake, the two decide to fly away . They soon discover how everything can change with one decision.
- Posted by Donna