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Author: Linden, Dianne
Publisher: Thistledown Press
Year Published: 2013
ISBN: 978-1-927068-38-0
Grades: Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12

On Fire

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Geared for a senior high school audience, On Fire explores themes of mental illness, Tourette’s Syndrome, personal identity, tolerance and inclusion, primarily through the rich characters and the actions centred on two adolescents. The mountain town of Blackstone is threatened by a raging forest fire. As fourteen-year-old Mattie Iverly watches, a stranger, seventeen-year-old man Dan, walks out of the fire and collapses. Initially, he is suffering from amnesia, but as he begins his recovery from the fire, it becomes apparent that there are other demons with which he struggles. Throughout the novel, Linden has woven allusions to Dante’s Inferno [R Dan (Dante), Bee (Beatrice), Virgil, and Mattie, short for Mathilda, the character who rescues Dante [R the town of Cato, and the raging inferno of the forest fire itself, from which Dan has inexplicably emerged. In the novel’s structure, the plot unfolds in alternating chapters, through the point of view of either Matti or Dan. In Matti’s chapters her internal dialogues and relationships give the reader a sense of the strategies she has developed to deal with her Tourette’s. With Matti’s persistent influence, Dan gets the treatment and understanding that he needs to reverse the journey countless adolescent males make every year into the wildfire we call mental illness , and begins to redefine his identity and place in the community. As Matti’s character develops, it is less about her differences and more about her strengths, determination, courage and loyalty.



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