Author: Stephanie Oakes
Genre: YA, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: August 22nd 2017
Format: ARC (496 pages)
Molly Mavity is not a normal teenage girl. For one thing, her father is a convicted murderer, and his execution date is fast approaching. For another, Molly refuses to believe that her mother is dead, and she waits for the day when they’ll be reunited . . . despite all evidence that this will never happen.
Pepper Al-Yusef is not your average teenage boy. A Kuwaiti immigrant with epilepsy, serious girl problems, and the most useless seizure dog in existence, he has to write a series of essays over the summer . . . or fail out of school.
And Ava Dreyman–the brave and beautiful East German resistance fighter whose murder at seventeen led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall–is unlike anyone you’ve met before.
When Molly gets a package leading her to Pepper, they’re tasked with solving a decades-old mystery: find out who killed Ava, back in 1989. Using Ava’s diary for clues, Molly and Pepper realize there’s more to her life–and death–than meets the eye. Someone is lying to them. And someone out there is guiding them along, desperate for answers.
At turns heart-racing, hilarious, and heartbreaking, The Arsonist is an intricate tapestry–of love, loss, and the mysterious connections between us all.
My Rating: ★★★★★
I have been waiting what feels like forever to read this book. Last year I fell head over heels for The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly and immediately added The Arsonist to by TBR. I was super lucky to get my hands on an ARC of this at YALC and was thrilled as it wasn’t a book I was expecting to see there! Nevertheless, I have finally read it and I was absolutely blown away by how gorgeous it was.
The Arsonist was nothing like I expected it to be. I’ll be honest and say that I hadn’t really read the blurb as I knew I wanted this book regardless of what it was about because I loved Oakes’ writing so much in her debut. This is such a gorgeous story of finding yourself and friendship and it is written in the most beautiful way. By the end of the book I had tears pouring down my face because I was just so attached to the characters and it really mattered to me what happened next. I did foresee where the story would lead but I certainly did not make the connections in the way they were actually made in the book and they were so well woven together.
The story is told from three perspectives and Stephanie Oakes has done a marvellous job at creating three unique voices and somehow managing to weave all of their stories together. Even many of the secondary characters were somehow woven into the bigger picture and it all seems so effortless by the end. I rarely write physical notes whilst reading but after every few chapters of this book I found myself theorising and writing down how Molly, Pepper and Ava could be connected. On many of those pages after my notes, I’ve just written ‘WHAT?’. For once I actually really enjoyed feeling quite lost in the story and not being 100% aware of what the connections were, it meant I really had to get to know the characters and I grew to love them quickly. It may not have the quickest plot but as someone who lives for well written characters, this book was marvellous. In fact, I read the whole thing in 24 hours and at 496 pages that is saying quite something!
A bit about our characters but don’t worry, there will be no spoilers from me!
Molly Mavity is the daughter of the Arsonist, her father has committed terrible crimes and is sentenced to death on death row. Her mother committed suicide several years ago but Molly refuses to believe this and thinks her mother is still out there somewhere. Molly is an outsider and I love her for that. She doesn’t want to fit it, she just wants to be herself and if that means she is a bit of a loner then so be it. Molly is so determined and curious about everything and I really valued those traits in her. I loved her journey and development throughout the book and although her story is tainted with huge sadness, Molly comes out on top.
Pepper is just an absolute sweetheart. We read his POV through a series of essays he has to write in order to graduate high school. Pepper lives with his father, a fisherman, after they moved to the US from Kuwait, where his mother died shortly after giving birth to him. He is epileptic and has a seizure dog called Bertrand, who appears to be pretty useless but is a great companion nonetheless. I loved Pepper’s humour and he provided some of the best laugh out loud moments of the book. Pepper’s life changes rather drastically when Molly comes crashing into it, but why have they been brought together?
Ava Dreyman provides our third POV through a series of diary entries, think Anne Frank style. Ava is a young girl living in East Berlin during the 1980s and we see her many struggles with the system, love and family. I really enjoyed reading her diary entries as they were interesting and informative but the whole time I was reading them I couldn’t help but try and figure out what the connection was. It becomes slightly clearer towards the end but even these diary entries come with their own sets of twists and turns.
Each chapter peels back a layer from the relevant character and brings you a step closer to revealing the truth. I couldn’t pick a favourite POV to read from as each had their own endearing quality to them. What I can say is that these characters are exceptionally well written and it doesn’t take long to build a connection with them. The question you will want answered is how are they connected to each other?
The Arsonist is a magnificent read, it is beautifully written and will keep you interested and intrigued right up until the end.
Have you read The Arsonist? Is it on your TBR?
What do you think of books that mix contemporary and historical fiction?