Fire Song

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 13 Nov 2018

Member Reviews

I gave Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones a one star, but I actually didn't finish it. I had to put it down I just really couldn't get into this book. The writing style didn't do it for me and made me not able to remember anything I read but also made it so hard to continue to read it at the same time,
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I had forgotten about this book until I was watching a movie a few days and realized it was the same story. If you suffer from mental illness this book can be a bit triggering, but still, an excellent story.
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Fire Song is one of the best books I read in 2018. As a Canadian, it resonated, and as a queer white Canadian, it gave me powerful insight into life in our First Nations communities and how it affects young people, especially those struggling with issues such as sexuality, mental health, family, etc. The prose is gorgeous and lyrical, and I was absolutely entranced by the characters and heartbroken at many points along the way. However, a thread of hope runs through this title, and I came away with a deeper sense of understanding and the need to share this book with others. A really beautiful, powerful read. Absolutely recommend.
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This was a powerful novel. I couldn't put it down. No one warned me that their would be triggers for Death, Suicide, Self harm, and many more. That took me a bit to get my emotions through some of those parts. I did have a few issues with the writing and with it was a bit better, but for a Debut novel by an Author who normally writes screenplays, I think he did a good job. This was a book written based on a movie with the same name. I will definitely be checking out the movie and also future works from this Author.
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Unfortunately I just didn't enjoy the writing style of this book and was unable to finish it, but I am certainly interested in checking out the film it is based on. It's an important and heartbreaking story.
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The premise is gripping; however, the writing style, unfortunately, left something to be desired by me.
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Here's the thing. I like this story. But didn't connect with the characters enough. A lot is happening but the emotional resonance wasn't there for me. Suicide, homophobia, drugs, etc. The execution of all of this on paper didn't work. The prose didn't work for me. 

 I do love that the story is own voices. I feel like all the representation here is great. I just think I'd love to see the movie for this soon. I think I'd connect to it more. The film has been on my watchlist for a while now but I wanted to read the book first when I saw there was a novelization. Will hopefully get around to watching the film in the next couple months. It will be an emotional one for me so I might take a bit longer to get to it. Still, definitely want to when I get the opportunity.
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I really wanted to love this book. I really wanted to love it because not only is it own voices m/m but it is written by an indigenous author. 

Sadly, the prose was awkward. The plot dull and generic. And the characters flat. This book was exceedingly disappointing and it pains me to say how much I disliked it. 

This book is also a movie, and by my understanding, the screenplay came first. So maybe, *fingers crossed* that is better.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2693311662
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This is a hard book. Like really, really hard--so hard that I had to put the book down and stop a few times because the darkness is thick and relentless and creeps up right when you think it might finally be going away. But it's a well-crafted story that never takes the easy way out and ends on a realistic note for its young characters and tumultuous setting.

An "our voices" read, this story is by a Canadian First Nations author who, according to his online bio, knows all too well what it means to be a part of a group with skyrocketing suicide, alcoholism, and addiction rates while still trying to maintain a culture that so many people want to see disappear. Transition is a major theme in this book--the transition from childhood to adulthood, from hiding to coming out, from home to "outside," from old ways to new ways. 

The protagonist, Shane, is more than ready to get off his reserve and into a new life as a college student in Toronto, but his ex-boyfriend, David, who he still loves, wants to find a way to remain on the res and keep his culture alive. Shane is still struggling after his sister Destiny's suicide, and his strained relationship with his girlfriend Tara, who deals with intense abuse in her own home, threatens to keep him away from the future he's so carefully constructed in his mind. On top of everything else, Shane finds out there's no money to send him to college, and his house is falling apart on top of his depressed and withdrawn mother. 

Shane's community doesn't want him to succeed, but that is isn't always on purpose. He is looking at a bigger picture outside of the reserve, while the family and friends he's known all his life are tying to make it work inside. It's never easy and often heartbreaking, especially since you can tell Shane still has a deep connection to his culture that cannot be wished away with big city plans. There's no lack of detail involved in describing Shane's everyday life--the intense poverty, the familial abuse, the date rape, the alcoholism, the lack of community resources for mental health and education. It's just his life. It has always been that way. And seeing him try to claw his way out of it, page after page, is distressing, exhausting, and sometimes feels more like punishment than a satisfying character arc.

After a particularly devastating climax, I was ready to move on from this book. I'm not a squeamish reader, and I don't abandon books just because they're sad or difficult--that sort of defeats the points of plot and conflict. But the infliction of pain on these young characters needed to give way to something else, and it didn't quite get there until the last quarter of the story. It is ultimately rewarding, well-done, and fitting for the narrative, but it takes a while to get there, and I imagine it will be too much for some readers--readers who have both experienced similar events and cannot even fathom them.

This book is technically an adaptation of the film of the same name by the same author. I haven't watched it yet, but I can definitely see how this book blends into something more cinematic. The dialogue and the way the scenes and imagery flow together make it read like a script at times--not a bad thing, just different.

Jones is obviously a skilled writer who doesn't pull his punches. He knows these characters, knows this setting. He's good at visuals and dialogue, but also with those quiet moments between characters. This is a tough story, especially for younger readers, but it's worth it.
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This is anything but your typical coming out/coming of age love story. Surviving grief, finding hope when hope is gone and making choices where there are none-- these are a few of the difficult themes that haunt this deeply affecting work by Adam Garnet Jones.

Jones paints his dark landscape with faint glimpses of light, rich with detail and eloquent prose.

Having read nearly 200 books this year, Fire Song rises to the top in terms of quality, execution and enjoyment.

This is not a book for everyone. It is extremely dark and some may find the themes too depressing, especially if they hit close to home. When I read it, I had forgot that it was actually an adaptation from a screenplay (written and directed by Jones) and having not seen the film (it's now in my Netflix queue); it reads like a unique, original work. Often I find books from film are poorly written and assuming that the reader had seen the film. Fire Song is fresh and stands on its own.

For anyone that enjoys challenging, vivid writing that speaks a special poetic truth-- I highly recommend it.

I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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An important reflection on the experience of coming of age under conditions of extreme poverty and government neglect. The characters were compelling and well developed. My one concern — and the reason I would hesitate to assign it to students — is that i don’t think the book did an adequate job of demonstrating how the homophobia within the community is the result of colonialism and cultural genocide, and not something that is inherent to native culture. There were hints of this critique, of course, but I worry that students would come away from reading it with a less-than-nuanced understanding of homophobia in this cultural context.
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I liked the book well enough. At times I felt the writ8ng was disjointed. I think more details could have been given. It left a lot up for speculation. In the area of suicide it definitely left a lot of unanswered questions I’d say I would recommend it to others that like this style of writing.
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Plot in a sentence: While Shane is still struggling with his sister’s suicide, he needs to care for his mother, find a way to pay for university and hide his relationship with another boy on the reservation.

Recommended age: 13 and up

Diversity:
   - LGBTQ+: The main character is gay.
   - Race: Most of the cast is Indigenous.

Who will love this book:
    - People who have been looking for tales of queer indigenous youth.
    - Fans of the movie of the same name, Fire Song.

What I liked about this book:
   - The hopelessness, Shane’s but also that of his community as a whole, is oppressive. It’s a nearly physical force in the novel.
   - Shane’s sister, who literally haunts the novel, and who’s death is a mystery that weighs on all the other characters.
   - There are no easy answers, perfect people or simple happy endings, which is realistic, though not necessarily cheerful.
   - It is an honest an insightful look at reservation life for Indigenous Canadians (including a glimpse at the problem of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women). We need more books like this.
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I want to thank Net Galley and Annick Press for allowing me to read this book in exchange for a honest review. 

To me, none of the characters grew from where they were at the start to where they end up at the end. This is a dark and heavy book that deals with some important subjects (Native American culture, LGBT+, etc.) but I feel like there wasn’t enough substance given for these topics? 

I really enjoyed my time reading this book; the writing style was very well done and I felt a lot for Shane as a character in particular, but this wasn’t the route I thought was this story was going to take.

Would I recommend this book? I’m not sure because while it was a very good book, I at the end of my reading experience felt like something was missing.
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This is a quieter coming-of-age, coming-to-grips story. Shane doesn't go through a magical transformation; love doesn't set him free, he doesn't figure his life out entirely, and he doesn't end up living the dreams he starts the book with. He goes from being a very sad, bright boy, to being a less sad and maybe a little less sure boy (but in a hopeful way). Bittersweet.
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I got this book for free from netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I’ll be honest, the first about 40 pages of this book I really thought I was going to hate it. Mostly because of the writing style, it took me a bit to figure out who was who and what was happening at first but man, once I got past that, I couldn’t stop. This book was very dark (trigger warnings for suicide and sexual assault). I liked how all the characters had their own ways of dealing with all these terrible things going on. I also enjoyed the discussion surrounding the Indian reserves and it really shows the inner struggle for the main character as Asks himself what he’s willing to do to change his life. one thing that bugged me though was the romance and some of the decisions made were very selfish and irritated me. The whole being with someone just so you can hide the fact that you’re with someone else thing rubbed me the wrong way. 
All in all though I really enjoyed this book, and I think that if it was maybe a tad longer the emotions would of built up a bit more and packed a much bigger punch
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Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while. —Malorie Blackman

This quote is one thing I love about stories. There are so many things I’ll never experience, but stories help me live lives that aren’t mine. Some are delightful, and some are graphically brutal. Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones is the latter. I can relate to not fitting into the community you’re born into and struggling to break out of the norms. But I am not native to either of the countries I’ve lived in, and I have the skin tone that’s considered “normal.”

That’s why I thank Adam Garnet Jones for writing the screenplay, and then this book of life on a Canadian Indian Reserve.

It’s easy to be despondent or write off the real-life people inspiring this novel. Fire Song is fiction, but it’s the story of hundreds of young adults. It’s hard for Shane to follow his dreams. He wants to go to university in Toronto and learn urban development to come back and help his family and the tribe. Except his sister recently committed suicide (the latest in a long list of tribe members to do it or be murdered), his mother can barely function in her grief, he has to choose between using the insurance money from his father’s death to cover university or replace the rotted roof on his mother’s house, his secret boyfriend is in the tribe. Then his girlfriend announces she’s leaving with him, and funding for university is stalled because of tribal memberships and budgets. And the adults in the tribe see the city as a terrible place and don’t want him to leave.

Fire Song is written with two voices. It’s mainly Shane’s story as the primary narrator, but we also have his girlfriend, Tara’s diary entries. The mix works well. They both have hard lives, and Tara describes her confusion with Shane. Doesn’t he want her? He’s not that physical. Then we have Shane’s side. Being gay just isn’t done on the Reserve and Shane’s careful that no one finds out about David. He knows what he wants, but feels it’s not possible. Shane can’t be himself when he needs to support his mom. And he’s processing his sister’s death. He knows his friends are asking why didn’t he stop it. He’s asking himself the same thing. Why didn’t he see it?

I suppose I should have added a trigger warning earlier. This story is brutal and real. From the time chatting with a Boys and Girls Club director on a Tulalip reservation in Washington state, and also from movies like, Once Were Warriors, Fire Song tells similar stories. Physical abuse is rampant. As is drug and alcohol abuse. Suicide is seen as the only way out. The behavior is cyclical and hard to break. Shane is told that because he’s smart, he could get a job in construction. To the speaker that’s as far as he can imagine. Academia is so foreign, he just can’t imagine it.

I regret starting Fire Song immediately after A Thousand Perfect Notes. Both stories are so well-written, and the characters in both have such harsh experiences that I had to put Fire Song down for a few days. Emotionally it was too much. I recommend both novels, but be warned they aren’t warm and fuzzy. But for a spoiler, both end well.
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Fire Song follows our main character Shane, a high school student who has recently suffered the death of his sister, Destiny—by suicide. Shane lives on the reservation with his now depression encapsulated mother and has secrets of his own. On the outside, Shane looks like the ultimate son, he is handsome, athletic, smart and has a pretty girlfriend. On the inside, Shane is in love with Destiny’s best friend, David. Everything seemed okay when Destiny was still alive, but since she died everything seems to be spiraling out of control. 
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I can always appreciate a book that keeps me interested from start to finish. There were a couple of confusing parts where Shane goes on what he refers to as “Drifts” in which his mind leaves his body and goes somewhere else. I took that to be equivalent to a daydream as a way for Shane to mentally check out from whatever experience is happening in front of him, a coping mechanism. I mostly felt bad for Shane during this story. He lost his sister, his dad passed away years ago, and now his mom won’t leave his sister’s room. Their house is falling apart, Shane’s relationship with his girlfriend, Tara, is getting rockier and there are murmurs throughout their tight-knit community about Shane and David being gay; a huge no-no for their people and their ancestors. The writing is easy to follow and keeps the reader wanting more from the story. I found it hard to put this one down because I just wanted to know what happened next! I would definitely recommend this story.
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Candid, visceral, and heart breaking. This book digs in and doesn't let go until it's clawed its way into your heart. The prose is gorgeous and vivid, expressing a complex range of emotions with precision and nuance. This book will hurt and then heal you.
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This book was a really good, and from what I can tell, accurate view of certain Native American reservations, while also dealing with  LGBTQA+ topics and the idea of two-spirited persons in Native American culture. I definitely recommend this book with the warning to keep in mind that this story does not represent all of the different values and traditions held throughout the various tribes and/or bands.
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