Review / Controlled Burn

20230304ma_0278Book: Controlled Burn (2022)
Author: Erin Soderberg Downing
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Publisher: Scholastic Press

Opening lines from the book …
I felt the fire before I saw it. It wasn’t the suffocating heat or the smell of smoke that hit me first. Nor did I see the claws of flames that eventually reached into every corner to rip apart our lives.


1) The story begins with … you guessed it … a fire. Maia’s at home, babysitting her little sister when the fire breaks out. Amelia (the sister) ends up in the hospital and Maia is really scared that it’s all her fault! Yeah, a lot of guilt processing in this book.

2)  Anyhow, she ends up going to stay with her grandparents. She doesn’t really know them too well. I immediately liked Grandpa. (He drives a motorcycle!). And Grandma’s good too. Still, Maia’s not too nuts about being away from home. (Even though she doesn’t really have a home!)

3) Not only is Maia dealing with guilt, but she also deals with fear. Of pretty much EVERYTHING. She spends most days with Grandpa who watches for forest fires in the fire tower, but Maia is scared to climb to the top with him.

4) There’s a stray dog that hangs out with Grandpa, although Grandpa won’t give him a name. I like how Maia changes that.

5) The cover kind of gives away the end. But you can probably guess this book has to end in another fire, just from the book title alone! So, you’re in for some excitement at the end.

6) I really liked the “Stages of a Fire” sections that broke up the various chapters.


This book was a teeny bit hard for me to read as I have my own fire-trauma story (not a house-burned-down experience but close!)  But I did enjoy the book overall. I was definitely rooting for Maia. And I’m a sucker for grandparents in books, so there’s that!



Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday


5 thoughts on “Review / Controlled Burn

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