Growing Up in Flames by Zach Jones

Kenna’s mother Ava died in a bushfire and she now lives with her uncle and aunt in her mum’s hometown, Kimba. She is trying to understand why her mum left 20 years before and never came back.

Noah’s father abandoned them many years before and he has looked after his mentally ill mother ever since. Kenna catches him burning down his old family store and takes his backpack, punishing him for his crime by creating a fake profile of him online that will invite an onslaught of trolls.

Twenty years in the past, James escapes from his abusive father and bed-ridden mother to an abandoned cottage. Like one of the wild birds he captures and cages, he convinces Ava to come with him and tries to hold her there. But when they play a trick on Ava’s childhood friend, Alex, their tenuous world comes crashing down.

Debut author Zach Jones gives voice to each of these four characters in their respective time periods through a variety of epistolary methods including a diary, text messages, Instagram threads and first-person narration.

This searing, atmospheric story of lives scarred by fire explores several themes including intergenerational trauma, child abuse, sexual assault, violence and revenge. Fire is a constant that pulls readers in with vivid descriptions of the smell, flames, and ash, and never really lets you go until the shocking conclusion. Anger, guilt, shame and trauma all reverberate in this rewarding read that will not disappoint. Suitable for older readers ages 14+.

Angela Crocombe is a senior buyer at Readings

Cover image for Growing Up in Flames

Growing Up in Flames

Zach Jones

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