Review of ‘Bonfire’ by Krysten Ritter
Most of us know Krysten Ritter from her outstanding role as Jessica Jones and her tragic character, Jane, on Breaking Bad, but last week, Ritter introduced us to another one of her talents as her first novel, Bonfire was released.
I read this book specifically because I am a fan of Ritter’s, and went into it hoping to be entertained, and as far as entertainment, it 100% delivered. Despite the overall plot being somewhat recycled, I still enjoyed the book. Ritter’s novel, Bonfire, is a mystery/thriller that truly captures the atmosphere of a small town, has plenty of relevant conversation starters, but is riddled with tropes, and an overall cliche story.
The main character, Abby Williams is a trite character that escapes her small town, but can’t escape her past, and must face a dark mystery from 10 years ago. Abby is an environmental lawyer that must investigate her old town’s water supply because a major company, Optimal Plastics, is believed to be dumping illegally. From the get-go, Abby believes there is a connection between Optimal Plastics and her ex-best friend, turned bully, Kaycee Mitchell’s disappearance from 10 years ago. There’s no real reason for Abby to believe there’s a connection other than Kaycee began to get really sick soon after Optimal arrived in their town, Baron. It’s hard not to see Jessica Jones as Abby slugs whiskey and tries to unravel a mystery. One thing I liked about the mystery of Kaycee is I never knew if she disappeared, was murdered, or was present until it was revealed at the end.
I also had no idea who the story’s main villain was until a scene took place that I’ve seen too many times to ignore. Still, I hoped I was wrong and the scene was put there because it was a common trope and meant to throw readers off. Sadly, I was mistaken, and the trope did what it has always done. Up to that moment, the main villain could have been a number of people, and even when Abby felt like she had it, I agreed with her. The main villain reveal and ending is where the book was at its weakest. The end was anti-climatic and overdone.
Abby had two love interests, which I think was more lust than anything romantic. The men were also tropes. The dangerous bad boy, and the high school jock. Both provide a bit of information towards the mystery, but not much. The two exist to serve the plot and are not that compelling or help deconstruct Abby. In fact, Abby isn’t really deconstructed at all. She doesn’t really change towards the end of the book. She likes her dad a bit more, but as a character, she doesn’t really evolve. The most interesting character is probably Kaycee. She has the most growth through the story’s flashbacks.
I liked the environmental aspect of the book, and I loved how the book is riddled with feminism. Bonfire explores the many ways women are exploited, and “the game” seems relevant considering what has been happening in Hollywood recently. Ritter has a lot of great opportunities to explore the important topics she presents but ultimately lacks in depth.
The story ends with some unanswered questions. Questions that even Abby says she never learned the truth of. The mystery of Kaycee is interesting, but Abby stumbles through clues and connects dots that aren’t entirely there. The commentary on cyberbullying and the dangers of toxic waste are great topic points, but the big evil company conspiracy and some of the characters are practically empty and are nothing new. It may not seem like it from my criticism, but I really did enjoy reading this book. I rate Bonfire 3/5. I recommend reading it for entertainment, but don’t expect any deeper meaning.