“Brooklyn Burning” by Steve Brezenoff

I know Steve, so I’m biased, but as I did with Carrie Mesrobian’s Sex and Violence (the books are both published by Carolrhoda Lab), I very much liked and admired his book Brooklyn Burning.

Our narrator is Kid, who hops back and forth between last summer and this one. Kid, whose gender is never spelled out as is true for some other characters in the book, had a crush last year on Felix, and something bad happened. Earlier in the present year, a fire destroyed a warehouse, and the police suspect Kid did it. As Kid meets Scout, the two summers intertwine as we learn why Kid began living on the street and what really happened to Felix, and with the fire.

Then I looked up. I didn’t notice that your ears stick out, just a little, so you look like a pixie sometimes, or an elf. I didn’t notice that the corners of you mouth always seem like they’re trying to smile, while the rest of your mouth wants to pout. I didn’t notice the little bump on your nose, near the bridge but slightly to the right-the bump I’d trace with my finger over and over, not soon enough. I didn’t notice your long hands and rough finger-tips, or the dozens-is it hundreds?-of bracelets on your left wrist, made of busted guitar strings.

I noticed your eyes, because they looked wet; maybe it was a trick of the light-the fluorescent and neon lights falling over your face from the bodega next door. But I didn’t think about love, and I didn’t see right down to your heart. But I must have stared-did I?-because there was your spirit, right there before me, and when you found my eyes I knew I’d pulled that spirit back from someplace amazing, not Greenpoint, not the summer sidewalk in front of Fish’s bar, smelling of old alcohol and piss.

But it must have been a trick of the light, because when you stood up, you were smiling, and your bright eyes looked alive and right there, with me, on Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, Earth.

This is a love letter to Brooklyn while also being a gender-open love story. I really enjoyed meeting Kid’s family of choice over the book, too.

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