Synopsis from Amazon:
Hayley and Xavier, two young adults from the small town of Pine Bush, N.Y. have been friends since childhood. After Hayley's twin sister dies in a car accident, Xavier is determined to get her out of her funk. They go on a camping trip that is ended abruptly by a wildfire. When they make into the town in the valley of the Shawangunk Mountains, everyone is missing, all the food is gone and something is in the woods. Something, not quite human, is at the top of the food chain now.
Once again, Kelsey Garmendia has succeeded in wrecking my emotions over a few fictional characters. Her style is spellbinding; the pacing is as torrential as a roller coaster: just when you feel like you can't handle the stress of the peril, she pulls back and relaxes... Only to amp it up again once the tension eases. She chooses her intense situations to match the need of her characters to develop and change very quickly. The more I read, the more I am convinced that reading Kelsey Garmendia is not for the faint of heart! Her writing reads like an intense indie film: what it lacks in "special effects" and in-depth technical detail (like professionally-written thrillers), it makes up for in committed, realistic characters, and the tense, uneasy silence that makes you hold your breath because you don't know what's coming or what's out there... Waiting to get in.
It starts out well enough: a young woman mourning the death of her sister. Her family and friends (including her sister's fiancé) have to deal with the loss, and they do so in different ways. In a normal book, this would be the extent of the plot, and we would study the human condition in the face of loss and grief.
But this isn't a normal book; this is Kelsey Garmendia, storyteller extraordinaire.
She gives us "coping with loss and grief" in the face of a desperate race to survive against something stronger, better, faster than a normal human being. In a single cataclysm too fast for anyone to realize it before it's too late, the world positively dissolves around them, and they have to find their way through the wasteland of humanity before they too succumb to the nameless, formless, relentless danger. The young woman has to deal with running under the protection of her late sister's boyfriend because he's about the only one she can trust anymore. And the boyfriend must be the protector of the young woman who is not just the sister of the girl he was going to marry...
It's her twin.
As with the first of her books I read--Disenchanted--"Burn Our Houses Down" serves as further proof that Garmendia is a master storyteller, giving relatable characters, credible situations, and ample food for thought to her readers. (My only warning, for those who consider that sort of thing, is there is quite a bit of swearing--which does make sense, given the scenario!)
A heart-pounding, stomach-clenching, breath-taking, race-to-the-finish read that will have you on the edge of your seat till the very end! "Burn Our Houses Down" gets a 5-star rating from the Upstream Writer!