Tuesday, December 25, 2012
The Flamer
By: Ben Rogers   Reviewed by OFW editor: Katrina Monroe
Published: November 11, 2012



Meet Oby Brooks, closet pyromaniac…

All boys tinker with fire. Oby Brooks holes up in a backyard shed to experiment with napalm recipes. He has a hand in burning down his own house, twice. He can’t help it: his very DNA seems made of TNT. Meanwhile, amidst the detonations, Oby’s sexuality is up for grabs. Parents, mountain men, chemistry teachers, neighbors, and arson inspectors all try in their own quirky ways to usher Oby into adulthood with his fingers and eyelashes intact. In the end, the question is whether Oby’s nature will be nurtured, or neutered. Oh, and, will he land a Nobel Prize?
The Flamer is about a boy. It is also about a man. The seamless transition the protagonist, Oby, makes between these two states of being is written so phenomenally well that the reader finishes wondering when the hell it happened. Oby is complicated, at times charmingly intolerable, and reminiscent of just about any thirteen year old boy you’ve ever known. He’s extraordinarily ordinary.
Without much tension to speak of, The Flamer’s readability lies with its wide cast of well-written characters and their impact on Oby’s growth, and also his impact on theirs. They are characters that the reader will walk away remembering.  
My only criticism is that Oby’s pyromania is the center for the initial push of the story. The need to create and nurture fire seems to be central to his very being, but early on in the novel it peters out. His “obsession” takes a back seat to other typical teenage issues of sexuality and filling his newer, more adolescent body. The term “pyromaniac” is loosely applied to a character with the average young boy fascination with fire and things that go boom.
The Flamer is a good novel that had great potential. It was entertaining, the writing melodic, and gave the reader something to turn the cogs in their brain. But there was something missing from it. The tone of the novel portrays darkness, while the title and protagonist both desire fire. Ironically, it seems what The Flamer is missing is spark.  

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