Booktalk: The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon

A few weeks ago, several colleagues and I conducted a presentation for an audience of school librarians.  After we finished the booktalking portion of our presentation we had a Q&A session, and we answered some questions about booktalking techniques (length of booktalks, favorite subject matter, etc.)  Once the discussion of the booktalks themselves was over, the most popular topic quickly became nonfiction books for teens.  Our audience specifically wanted recommendations of autobiographical books for teens who were fascinated by “true survivor” stories like A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer.  Whenever I get a request for a nonfiction book for teens about someone who suffered through trauma and lived to tell about it, The Burn Journals is ALWAYS at the top of my list.  Brent Runyon started his writing career with this book, but since then he has gone on to write several novels.  Visit his website to learn more about him and this powerful book.


When Brent Runyon was fourteen years old, he set himself on fire.  This wasn’t the first time he tried to kill himself, but it was supposed to be the last.  The other times were small compared to this — but then again, this time he was in real trouble.  This time he had set a fire in one of the school lockers, and everyone knew that he was guilty.  He told some of his friends that he was going to kill himself.  He told them that he was going to set himself on fire.  They didn’t believe him.  But Brent was very serious.  He had the bathrobe, the gasoline, and the matches all ready.  He went into the bathroom, he locked the door, and he stepped into the bathtub.  He poured the gasoline on the bathrobe.  He lit the match.  He caught on fire.  But then something happened that he didn’t expect; he survived.

When Brent Runyon was fourteen years old, he set himself on fire.  But that isn’t the end of the story; it’s only the beginning.

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