The Center for Children's Books


Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Burning Brightly: Fiery Titles that Bring the Heat - December 2014

Selected and annotated by Anna Shustitzky

While many of these titles do actually feature fire one way or another, this list pays homage to the fiery figures of speech that we use to describe brave heroes, mystifying events, and volatile situations. This list features primarily young adult offerings with a handful of middle grade selections as well.


Angelini, Josephine. Trial by Fire. Feiwel, 2014. 384p. Gr. 9-12.
Life-threatening allergies have devastated Salem teen Lily Proctor, and when she humiliates herself at a school party, she is ready for a different life. Her wish is granted when she wakes up in a whole new Salem, one controlled by powerful witches and led by her despotic alternate, Lillian. Lily joins the fight against Lillian, but her efforts reveal a much more dangerous scenario where those in power aren’t all that they seem.

Cashore, Kristin. Fire. Dial, 2009. 461p. Gr. 8-10.
In this stunning companion to Graceling, Fire is conflicted about her status as the last of the human monsters, beings both hated and desired due to their unique powers of hypnotism and manipulation. When political upheaval threatens to tear her homeland apart, Fire must resist others’ attempts to control her gifts as she herself comes to terms with the extent of her power and her role in the kingdom.

Caterer, Claire M. The Key & the Flame. McElderry, 2013. 468p. Gr. 5-8.
Eleven-year-old Holly longs for adventure, but nothing can prepare her for the shock of discovering a magical world behind a door in a tree.  Her kid brother and their annoying neighbor follow her through the door, where they are promptly captured and sentenced to death by the prince of the land. Rescued by magical exiles, Holly discovers her own powers and fights to save the land and her two young charges from the tyrannical, magic-fearing rulers.

Collins, Suzanne. Catching Fire. Scholastic, 2009. 391p. Gr. 7-10.
Trying to return to normal following her triumphant, rebellious victory in last year’s Hunger Games, Katniss is shocked to discover that she has become the symbol for an uprising that threatens to overturn the entire nation of Panem. Hunger Games fans will tear through this sequel that takes Katniss back into the deadly Games, but readers should have the final volume at hand in anticipation of a gripping cliffhanger.

Gibson, Heath. Burn. Flux, 2012. 251p. Gr. 7–10.
Volunteer firefighter William “Wee Wee” Tucker has learned an interesting lesson on the job: tragedy and loss have a way of reminding people what’s important in life. In response to the hypocrisy in his small Alabama town, William decides to recreate this reminder himself with the strike of a match. William is always careful to contain his fires, but how long will it be before someone gets hurt?

Griffin, Paul. Burning Blue. Dial, 2012. 291p. Gr. 9-12.
From outcast Jay Nazarro’s perspective, Nicole Castro has it all: popularity, money, but beauty most of all—until an acid attack leaves her visually and emotionally scarred.  During the investigation and her long recovery, Jay and Nicole form a deep friendship that transcends their respective ordeals. Determined to find answers about her attack, Jay is drawn further into this mystery in which everyone is a suspect and nobody is safe.

Hale, Bruce. Playing with Fire; illus. by Brandon Dorman. Disney Hyperion, 2013. 308p. Gr. 5-8.
The Merry Sunshine Orphanage is Max’s last chance to turn his life around before juvenile hall. Sure, nobody likes the new kid, but that’s no reason for his new housemates to attack him with knives! This is no ordinary home: Max and his housemates are training to become juvenile spies with a very important mission. A life of action and adventure awaits . . . until Max receives a cryptic message that his father may still be alive.

Hassan, Michael. Crash and Burn. Balzer + Bray, 2013. 532p. Gr. 8–12.
Steven “Crash” Crashinsky is a hero. He bravely stepped in when classmate David “Burn” Burnett threatened to destroy their school, an act which launched him into the national spotlight and earned him a book contract, college offers, and all the questionable trappings of popularity that a high schooler could ask for. Recounting his history with Burn from second grade to senior year, Crash bluntly documents the daily cruelties, big and small, that are perpetrated in contemporary society and that lurk behind his apparent heroism.

Honeyman, Kay. The Fire Horse Girl. Levine/Scholastic, 2013. 321p. Gr. 7–10.
Born in the early 1900s to the Fire Horse sign in the Chinese Zodiac, Jade Moon is doomed to be stubborn, reckless, and completely unmarriageable in China. She takes her chances in America with her father and a charming family friend, but betrayal during the immigration process forces her to rely on her headstrong nature to survive on her own in San Francisco. End matter provides historical context for this riveting story.

Lough, Amber. The Fire Wish. Random House, 2014. 307p. Gr. 7-10.
On her way to marry a prince of Baghdad, Zayele is desperate to escape her fate. When jinni Najwa finds her during her journey, Zayele is struck by their nearly identical appearances and wishes to trade places with the jinni. Both girls face serious danger if caught, and their deception is further complicated as each girl finds herself attracted to the enemy.

Lynch, Chris. Hothouse. HarperTeen, 2010. 198p. Gr. 8-12.
Russell has grown up idealizing his firefighter dad and reaping the benefits of his hero connection around town. After Russell and his friend DJ tragically lose their fathers on the job, dark secrets come to the surface and challenge Russell’s perception of his hero father while he is still coming to terms with the loss.

Magoon, Kekla. Fire in the Streets. Aladdin, 2012. 321p. Gr. 9-12.
It’s the summer of 1968, and fourteen-year-old Maxie would do anything to become a Black Panther. She is determined to prove herself to her family and friends in the Party, and as tensions escalate, she feels increasingly powerless without the training—and the gun—that full membership would provide. When somebody in the Party turns traitor, however, the cost of membership is higher than Maxie had ever anticipated. This is a companion novel to the award-winning title The Rock and the River.

McBride, Lish. Firebug. Holt, 2014. 336p. Gr. 9-12.
Ava was recruited as an assassin for the Coterie because of her ability to start fires, not control them. When her cruel boss orders her to kill a family friend, Ava goes on the run and tries to sort things out with a compelling team of allies on her side.

McKinley, Robin. Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits; by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson. Putnam, 2009. 297p. Gr. 8-12.
Following their 2002 Water collection, McKinley and Dickinson have produced here five short stories demonstrating the fickle, dangerous, entrancing power of fire. A girl adopts a hellhound to find that he is even more than meets the eye, and brave warriors fight terrifying supernatural creatures. The collection features a satisfying novella by McKinley that is unlike any dragon story you’ve seen before.

Powell, Laura. Burn Mark. Bloomsbury, 2012. 403p. Gr. 8-10.
Witchcraft is strictly regulated by the Inquisition: those who develop powers can choose to have their gift suppressed, join select government positions, or die by fire. Despite the danger, Glory can’t wait to join her family’s powerful fae legacy. Lucas, son of the Chief Prosecutor of the Inquisition, is eager to hunt witches—that is, until he develops fae powers too. As Lucas attempts to infiltrate Gloria’s new Coven, the two uncover shocking secrets about both organizations.

Weatherly, L. A. Angel Burn. Candlewick, 2011. 449p. Gr. 7-10.
Forget everything you know about angels: they are parasites, dangerous beings that assassin Alex has sworn to eliminate. Willow is his next target, but she knows nothing about the source of her powers. When the angels themselves try to destroy her, they discover that Willow may be the key to wiping out angels for good. Alex and Willow are drawn together in a slow, lovely romance as they work through the implications of her power.

Whitney, Daisy. The Fire Artist. Bloomsbury, 2014. 275p. Gr. 7-12.
Aria dazzles southern Florida crowds with her ability to manipulate fire into brilliant, dangerous displays. Unbeknownst to her fans, Aria is trapped under her father’s control and the terrible secret behind her powers. When she turns to wish-granter Taj, the two unexpectedly bond over their shared difficulties. Together, Aria and Taj fight to save everything they hold dear.