Burning by Danielle Rollins

Angela dreams of her release from Brunesfield Juvenile Correctional Facility. In a few months she’ll be back with her little brother and free to do all the things people take for granted in the outside world: have a shower on her own, wake up whenever she wants, and spend her time however she likes instead of conforming to the rigid prison schedule.

But with the arrival of Jessica, Angela’s release is suddenly uncertain. Everybody stops to watch as the shackled ten-year-old is marched into the segregation ward where they keep the most serious offenders. The guards seem extra-jumpy around Jessica, but how bad can somebody who looks so young and innocent be?

Angela finds out the answer to that the hard way: Jessica is incredibly dangerous. She can do things that no normal child should be able to do. And when the head of the new SciGirls prison program asks Angela to befriend Jessica or risk having her sentence extended, she feels she has little choice. As she attempts to draw Jessica out of her shell, Angela finds that strange things are happening at Brunesfield, and perhaps Jessica isn’t the real monster after all.

Burning is YA in the tradition of paranormal horror like Stephen King’s Carrie, though perhaps without the same scare factor. It’s the characters who suck you in and keep you reading here, particularly Angela and her difficult relationships with the people she loves on the outside. This is a tense thriller which will appeal to fans of Madeleine Roux’s Asylum series or readers 14 and up looking for something to make their hearts race while they read.

Holly Harper is a children’s bookseller and author who blogs for the Readings website.