December 17, 2018

Adrienne Maria Vrettos: "Burnout"

Title: Burnout [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Adrienne Maria Vrettos [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller/Mystery, Contemporary
Year: 2011
Age: 12+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Honest depiction of an imbalanced friendship. Realistic main character.
Cons: Lacks a strong emotional punch. Some events are a bit far-fetched.
WARNING! Alcohol abuse, rape intent, self-image problems.
Will appeal to: Those who have had at least a toxic friend in their life, or one who didn't love them as much as they did.

Blurb: On the day after Halloween, Nan wakes up in a subway car. She’s missing a whole day from her life. And she’s wearing skeleton makeup and a too-small Halloween costume that she doesn’t remember putting on. Nan is not supposed to wake up in places like this anymore. She’s different now, so far from that dangerously drunk girl who hit bottom in the Nanapocalypse. She needs to find out what happened to her, and fast. As she tries to put together the pieces of the last twenty-four hours, she flashes back to memories of her previous life. But she would never go back to her old friends and her old ways. Would she? The deeper Nan digs, the more disturbing things get. This time, she may have gone one step too far. This time, she may be a walking ghost. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: Before I bought this one, going by the last line of the blurb above and the two-line prologue on Amazon, I inferred it told the story of a dead character recalling/investigating her demise, so I was excited. It turned out that it wasn't the case, so I don't really get what the whole "ghost" reference was about (OK, I sort of understand the metaphor, but it sounded much more like a literal description to me). Then again, I don't regret reading this book, even if under false pretenses. I just meant to tell you - don't get fooled like I this for the right reasons.


I shelved this book as Mystery/Thriller, and a mystery it is - with the main lead Nan desperate to uncover what she did the previous night, and more than anything, what happened to her best friend Seemy. But at its core, Burnout is a contemporary of the dark variety (albeit not at all as dark as it might have been) - a story of bad choices and the places they take you, and even more than that, a story about the length we go for a friend even when they don't love us as much as we do (or precisely because they don't). This was the aspect that resonated with me the most: while I've never been in a toxic friendship of the "bad influence" variety (and I wouldn't, because I'm one of the less influenceable people I know), I have been in a sort of unrequited friendship for a long while - until the friend in question set to size me down once and for all, and since I couldn't cope with that, we ultimately split. If you've ever loved a friend more than they did, and you've ever been aware of it (and hurt because of it), Vrettos captures this feeling perfectly. Then again, in a short book like this (less than 200 pages), emotions gets somehow constricted and lose some of the impact they could make...more of this in the next paragraphs. [...]


The book follows Nan as she's trying to make sense of her previous day (which she completely blacked out on, until small fragments start to resurface) and to find Seemy, all while flashing back to how they became friends and started flirting with danger, and how Nan ultimately broke down and went to rehab (I'm not sure why it should be "rehab lite" though). This part was done well, though don't expect to see Nan go all sleuthy or anything - she finds most of the clues by accident, which is understandable, because there's a plausible reason why she can't remember the previous day. But the more I got to know what happened, the more I felt like the whole situation was a bit far-fetched. Nan recently got out of rehab, but apparently, during the entire evening/night in which she run into trouble, she wasn't supervised. Also, without getting too spoilery, there were plenty of moments in which she and Seemy could have changed the course of the night simply by calling the right kind of attention to themselves, instead of plotting and trying to carry out improbable, long-drawn-out plans, or actually leaving the places that could give them shelter. Then again, of course, there would have been no book if they did 🙂.


On the whole, this novel would have probably benefited of more fleshing out. More time spent with Nan's family and Toad (the third wheel in her and Seemy's friendship); more of Nan's body image problems (apparently, she's not fat, but is described as "burly"), and her alternating between wanting to make herself smaller and actually embracing her physical appearance as if to make a statement, by adding a goth look and an attitude to it. She feels so much like a real teen, and I did like her, but I would have liked to know her and her world better. There was so much space to expand her story, what with her artist mother, little half-brother, almost-stepdad, school, rehab. In that small amount of pages, I still think that the most fleshed-out thing was her relationship with Seemy, and even of that I would have liked to see more. Either way, Burnout is still a book that resonated with me for certain reasons - though it didn't pack the strong emotional punch it could have - and that I can see me coming back to in the future.

For quotes from this book click here.
For more Thriller/Mystery books click here.


  1. It doesn't sound like your usual read (although you thought it was your usual read going in) so I'm glad you ended up mostly liking it anyway & that it resonated with you.

    I've found quite a few reads like that this year.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    1. I suppose this one would have fled under my radar if not for the misleading blurb...also, there were too little reviews on GR for me to realise it wasn't the kind of story I thought. Still a good one, with a few quotes that hit the mark for me - only too short.

      You're more adventurous than me, so it doesn't surprise me LOL.

  2. I dislike it when authors bring up series issues and then don't elaborate on them. If a character is having trouble accepting themselves, the way the look, sound, etc., then I think that needs to be addressed thoroughly. I also have trouble enjoying a book when I cannot relate to the characters or their troubles. Hmm -- this one probably wouldn't work for me in the end. I feel like I would be easily frustrated.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

    1. The unrequited friendship hit home for me, but even that was constricted in a small number of pages. This one had the potential to be a much longer and articulated book, especially since it touches on so many themes (besides friendship, image issues, addiction, family). From what I hear though, it's a recurring problem with contemporary novels - they try to cover to many bases at once...

  3. First time I'm hearing about this novel, but I got so excited for it based on the blurb and then the start of your review... sadly, the more I read, the less and less enthusiastic I became. Honestly, this doesn't sound like a bad book, but it's one of my pet peeves when a book could have been so. much. better. had it been more fleshed out/longer. Also, it's always sad when a mystery or thriller is a bit (or a lot?) too far-fetched. Great review! :)

    1. Yes, it's a bit half-baked, but the friendship aspect broke my heart...there were so many quotes I liked.

      Thank you!


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