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Pyro by M. Polak

Polak, Monique.  Pyro. Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 2012. Ebook.

Franklin Westcott has always been fascinated by fire.  As pressures mount in his life, Franklin struggles internally to keep things together.  His father is running to be re-elected as Mayor, and is focused on catching the pyromaniac that is threatening the community.  Franklin's mother reveals she is in love with someone else, and moves out of their home.  At his father's request, Franklin attends Sunday school, something he hasn't done for years.  Fatefully, he becomes involved in the lighting crew for the talent show the Sunday school is presenting.  There he meets Tracy, one of the girls performing in the show, who is also struggling with her own inner turmoil.  Together, Franklin and Tracy face the obstacles life has presented them.  As their relationship grows, Franklin begins to open up to Tracy and, in her, finds the support he needs to face his inner demons.

The simple sentences and compelling storyline make this an accessible and intriguing read for struggling and reluctant readers.  The straightforward plot development is quick paced, engaging the reader from start to finish.  The unexpected revelations and complexities keep the reader questioning the outcome for Franklin to the very end.  It deals with subject matter which is realistic and relevant to middle school students, broaching a topic which is often in the shadows of more prevalent issues, such as bullying and teenage suicide.  

Polak researched "firestarters" over several months, utilizing the expertise of Dr. Kenneth R. Fineman, a psychologist specializing in the topic.  Polak also interviewed numerous firefighters and high school students to gain further insights to the techniques and characteristics of such youth.  The result is a story which reveals the consequences of such actions for all those involved.  Pyro brings awareness to the issue and promotes fire prevention.

Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Kimberly Scheideman

Kimberly Scheideman is a student in the TLDL program at the University of Alberta, and an Instructional Coach/Teacher with ECSRD No. 2 in Spruce Grove, Alberta.