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Bonfire: Book Review

Updated on December 2, 2017

Return To A Town That Cast Her Out

Shortly after her eighteenth birthday, Abigail Williams left her small poke-dunk hometown in Indiana and never thought to look back in Krysten Ritter's Bonfire. Abby's relationship with her overly religious father had fallen by the wayside after the death of her mother from cancer, and the high school group of popular kids led by her childhood best friend, Kaycee Mitchell gave her no way to stay.

Years later as a successful environmental lawyer, Abby is back to the town that cast her out to solve the mystery of if the contamination reported in the town's water supply is truly to blame for the crop of skin rashes, birth defects, and cancers that seem to overwhelm the population- similar to the real life events in Flint, Michigan.

Back in her high school days, Abby's former childhood best friend, Kaycee and her cronies were said to have faked their own accounts of the illness to try to collect on a class action lawsuit; but after the girls recanted shortly after Kaycee was said to have fled town, Abby never dreamed that just maybe what Kaycee had experienced had been real.

What Abby uncovers is more sinister than what she could ever imagine and a scandal riddled with bribes, sexual exploitation of minors, and child pornography adds to the troubles.

Bad water is the last of the town's problems.

What Abby uncovers is far more sinister than just bad water, uncovering bribery, and a child pornography ring.

A Bad Seed

The main protagonist in the story is Kaycee, whom was rumored to have left town shortly after high school.

What we know of her was from flashbacks of Abby and reports from other friends that helped to bully Abby through school.

Kaycee's poor upbringing had bonded her early on with Abby. Her mother was said to be a drug addict and her father "a little too fond" of the girl and friends had guessed that perhaps she was being molested and that explained her outrageous behavior.

Kaycee was one part friend to Abby but more bully always looking for a way to turn on those that confided in her. She was known to be a thief and steal from others at school and sometimes find a way to bribe the victim into getting their item back. She was also prone to violence and would often attack with no notice.

Kaycee seemed to be crying out for any attention even if it was negative in nature. She could be cruel and extremely jealous proving this fact when Abby had rescued a stray dog when they were children. The dog "perhaps smelling that Kaycee was a bad seed", tried to bite her and Kaycee extracted her revenge, first telling Abby that an accident would befall the canine. Kaycee didn't even try to deny feeding the dog rat poison.

When Kaycee began to have strange tremors and and cough up blood, everyone in school decided she was faking but her group of friends copied thinking that they could blame the illness on the the town's polluted water. While the other girls recanted quickly, to those that knew her best started to believe that Kaycee may actually be sick and just as quickly she was gone.

As Abby begins to investigate the pollution, everything leads back to Kaycee and her disappearance.

Was Kaycee really dead?

Was Kaycee really the key to what was happening?

Was Kaycee really the key to what happening?

The School Principal

In an impoverished small town, Abby was the true star.

Coveted by those that never found opportunity to leave, Abby's return for the investigation is haunted by old faces of her former tormentors looking to be friends. Among those that treated her badly during her teen years, Misha, now the school principal is one of the first looking to befriend Abby despite spending the last years of high school physically assaulting her and barking at her when she saw Abby in the hallways.

Misha, one of the most cruel characters in her teen years tries to show that she has changed her ways as she has become the high school principal trying to right her wrongs as a "mean girl" and trying to instill pride in the community youth.

Abby, never trusting her hospitality is constantly trying to find a way to trap Misha into revealing what she actually knows about Kaycee's disappearance looking for a link to tie together what happened in high school to the water investigation.

Misha does eventually find Kaycee in Florida, or as Abby figures out- someone being passed off as Kaycee over a phone call and her suspicions that someone- possibly at the corporation had killed Kaycee to silence her.

What was Misha's role now, and why was she so interested in what Abby uncovers?

What was Misha's role now and why was she so interested in what Abby uncovers?

The Ultimate Betrayal

Optimal Plastics, the corporation that had taken over a small Indiana town had once been located in Tennessee, and left behind a small town in ruins. Mysterious diseases and contaminated water in its wake, the corporation had paid off anyone that was feeling litigious.

Similar to the circumstances of her hometown. Abby learns from rediscovering old high school "friends" that if was from this knowledge that Kaycee came up with her scheme of a class action lawsuit for acting sick.

Little did she know that her group was looking to betray her in a manner most foul. Kaycee is in fact dead and it was those friends that took one of Kaycee's worst high school schemes, "The Game" in which high school boys got naked pictures of their female classmates and exhorted them to get back the photos. Several of the girls that couldn't pay up had their photos released to the student body and two actually committed suicide after the ordeal.

With her connections to both Optimal and the high school, Misha, by far the meanest of all is in a prime position to carry on "The Game" and make bribe money in the meantime.

Through her position at the school, Misha researches the most vulnerable of students and presents them with an opportunity to get a scholarship from Optimal Plastics promising to get them out to their sad little town. Most of the students poor and some barely passing high school, desperate girls will do anything for a chance to get picked, including attending "Scholarship Interview Parties" where high school girls are fed alcohol, drugs, and molested and photographed by corporate members of Optimal. Afterwards the families are bribed to get the photographs of their daughters back.

A new generation begins to attempt suicide when they can't get back their photos.

Optimal Plastics is truly untouchable able to poison your family and rape your children- that is until Abby stumbles upon the truth and the table is turned on her just how involved those that she hated growing up are wrapped up in the corruption. It surfaces that Kaycee's own group poisoned her with mercury causing her symptoms, and now they are looking to take out Abby.

This book was not what I expected from the description being much more of a thriller than a mystery novel. The fast paced story was griping at every turn and what seemed to be a simple story about the effects of pollution gut punched with a tale of murder, exploitation, and child pornography.

Bonfire is a great read and I was sad to see it end so quickly.


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    • JynBranton profile image

      Jennifer B 3 months ago from Bolingbrook

      It’s really a good book. I wasn’t sure what it was about when I first came across it but as the story unfolded I was like wow what a great story

    • Lisa Jane39 profile image

      Lisa Jane 3 months ago from Washington

      This was a great review on the book. Just by reading your review, it got me hooked. I was thinking what happened to Kaycee.