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  • Mandy McHugh

She's Too Pretty to Burn, Wendy Heard: A Review

I love Wendy Heard's writing, and I've had this one on my TBR since I saw the announcement on Twitter. That cover is stunning, and I shrieked when I was approved for an audio arc.

A whirlwind young romance develops between photographer Veronica and Mick, a demure swimmer with a phobia of having her picture taken. As the summer progresses and their personal lives become complicated, Mick and Veronica become entwined in a rebel art scene, led by their charismatic and mysterious friend Nico. The stakes are high, and the body count is growing. I really enjoyed this book. For the audiobook presentation, I loved the narrators. I thought their voices read well and emoted at the right times. I wasn't distracted by phrasing or pacing, and the chapters moved quickly. The NetGalley shelf app, however, was finnicky, and I had to delete and reinstall the app numerous times, as the chapters would play dead air. It's been years since I've read Portrait, so I think that helped me go into this with unclear expectations of where the plot would go. I loved Mick and Veronica's relationship in that it wasn't idealistic, but rather a nuanced portrayal of toxic love. At times sweet and innocent, Mick and Veronica seem to care about each other. There is a physical attraction, a shared commonality of wanting more, and the spark of the infatuation phase. But there's also a darker side, an unhealthy obsession and flippant dismissal of boundaries. They both lie. They take advantage of the other's trust in order to serve their own selfish motivations. They struggle with their decisions, but that doesn't stop them from living in the morally ambiguous areas. And I LOVED that. Oftentimes in YA, we see romanticized ideals of first loves. There's a Betrayal, but it's a miscommunication or motivated by the desire to do right by the other. We don't always see that with Mick and Veronica, and I think it is so necessary to explore the ramifications toxic relationships can have at a young age. Teenagers don't always make the best or wisest choices, in spite of intelligence, common sense, or knowing right from wrong, and I think a lot of younger readers will relate to the intoxicating yet dangerous nature of their relationship. I would also add that Heard does an amazing job of giving us this imbalance without romanticizing the blurred lines, leaving the reader to examine the commentary on consent, social pressures, and the degree to which we're willing to accept "the wrong thing." Overall, She's Too Pretty to Burn is a fast-paced, layered, exciting read with plenty of unpredictable twists that you won't want to miss. Thank you to Dreamscape Media and NetGalley for providing an audio arc in exchange for honest review consideration.

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