Lies Like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez #BookReview #BlogTour

The monsters have known each other their whole lives. This is their final summer before college - time to hang out, fall in love and dream about the future.

Until they accidentally start a forest fire which destroys their hometown and leaves death in its wake.

Desperate for the truth to remain hidden, the group make a pact of silence.

But the twisted secret begins to spin out of control and when one of the friends disappears they all become suspects.

We know how it starts but where does it end?

Secrets and lies are everywhere in this compulsive page-turner, perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying.

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Lies Like Wildfire today. Many thanks to Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, Penguin Books and The Write Reads for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

Being responsible for the deaths of a number of people and the destruction of houses, tree and wildlife would mean you're a monster, wouldn't it? Well, the group of teens who start a forest fire that destroys their hometown before blazing through Yosemite National Park have collectively been known as the monsters since they were small children but it was a tragic mistake rather than an act of arson.
The first part of this compulsive YA novel follows what happens after  Hannah, Mo, Violet, Drummer and Luke accidentally start a fire when they're spending the day at Gap Lake. It's clear that Jennifer Lynn Alvarez knows what she is writing about when she describes the fire; from the terrifying speed and intensity of the blaze to the panicked evacuation and then the devastating aftermath, these scenes are dramatic and emotional.
The monsters aren't bad people but they make decisions and act in ways that open them up to understandable criticism. I can fully appreciate why some readers may find them unlikeable but despite their obvious flaws, I couldn't help but sympathise with most of them. I was less keen on Drummer, however, although there were moments when I feared that his somewhat manipulative behaviour around girls would be excused or overlooked, I have no complaints about how his character was ultimately developed. 
The storyline is narrated from Hannah's perspective and she is a cleverly constructed character whose actions meant I changed my opinion of her time and again. As the novel progresses and the monsters find themselves under increasing scrutiny, her account of what is happening is as compelling as it is disturbing. She is the daughter of Gap Mountain's town sheriff and while her personal history explains her increasingly obsessive resolve to conceal the truth, it's grimly fascinating to see how she reacts as the net closes in on members of the group. 
The second part of the book explores events after one of the group disappears and by this point, the fractures between this previously tight group of friends mean these chapters feel a little like rubber-necking, watching their worst fears coming to pass. It's easy to condemn them for their choices and there is no doubt that what they do is wrong. Neither is it unfair to state that their behaviour is often toxic and dangerous but they are scared and guilt-ridden so I could empathise with them without agreeing with what they do. It's rather sombre seeing what such an immense tragedy inflicts on them all but although obviously a fictionalised thriller, I felt it was a realistic portrayal of what happens to people after a life-changing event, particularly one that means they now face potential jail time and fines of thousands or even millions of dollars.
Lies Like Wildfire is an emotion-charged, atmospheric YA thriller and despite being in my late forties, I enjoyed it very much. The descriptions of the wildfire are perhaps the highlight of the book and these scenes are beautifully, horrifyingly vivid but there is much else to admire here, too. The characterisation of these imperfect, selfish, panic-stricken friends is excellent while the rising tension as damning evidence in both investigations comes to light makes for a gripping, pacy read from start to finish, and the sense of place is superb throughout. I suspect the conclusion may be a little divisive and to be honest, I'm still not quite sure how I felt about it but that's fine, as the monsters discover here, life doesn't always turn out the way you expect, so why should the ending of a book?! This is the first YA thriller that Jennifer Lynn Alvarez has written and such an accomplished story means any future crime novels are an enticing prospect, I look forward to more.

Lies Like Wildfire will be published in the UK by Penguin on 9th September 2021, purchasing links can be found here or order from your favourite independent bookshop.

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About the Author
I received my B.A. in English from the University of California at Berkeley. I'm fascinated by underdogs and power dynamics between groups of people. 

I'm the author of LIES LIKE WILDFIRE, a teen thriller soon-to-be published by Delacorte Press, and two middle grade book series, each published by HarperCollins Children's Books, THE GUARDIAN HERD (a quartet) and RIDERS OF THE REALM (a trilogy). Before this, I self-published a middle grade fantasy called THE PET WASHER. 

When I'm not writing, you'll find me galloping my little black mare through the foothills of Sonoma County or teaching free creative writing workshops to kids and adults at various branches of our local library system. 

The Healdsburg Literary Guild selected me as their 2019/2020 Literary Laureate for my work in building literacy in my community. It is an honor I hold dear. I am also the current SCBWI Sonoma County Coordinator and a volunteer on the Sonoma County Library Advisory Board.

I live in Northern California with my husband, three children, and more than my fair share of pets!