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The Burn Journals    by Brent Runyon order for
Burn Journals
by Brent Runyon
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

This true story takes place in 1991 in Falls Church, Virginia. Brent Runyon is a brilliant fourteen-year old, placed in a Gifted and Talented program. Brent's grades begin to drop, and he's viewed by classmates as a joker. Of his depression Brent writes, 'It's like a black cloud hanging over my head, like in cartoons when it's only raining on the one guy and it follows him around wherever he goes, even indoors. That guy is me ... I've got to think of a way to kill myself that I can't turn back from.'

Brent had attempted suicide before, but covered up the undertaking, or didn't follow through. On February 5th, Brent does follow through - he closes and locks the doors to a bathroom in his family home. 'I bring my bathrobe into the shower and pour gasoline over it. I put the bathrobe over my shoulders ... I light the match.' After the deed, Runyon is taken to the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. with second and third degree burns over 85% of his body. There are weeks and months of skin grafts. Surgical procedures are excruciatingly painful - one grafting treatment to his back requires him to lie on his stomach until healing begins. After months at the Children's center, Brent is transferred to rehabilitation facilities for concentrated physical, occupational, and psychological therapy. Eventually brought home, he is tutored, and subsequently mainstreamed into his high school, first part-time then full-time. Brent graduated with his high school class and achieved high honors at Ithaca College.

This personal story is moving and compelling, intense and intuitive - a read of interest to both teens and adults. Brent Runyon is now twenty-seven years old, and over a four-year period with the help of Christina Egloff, he writes in a first-person narrative a log of before and after the attempt, and of the long road to recovery. In The Burn Journals, Brent shares his thoughts, fears, anguish, and the act of setting himself on fire. The author's hope in writing the book is that he will specifically explain the 'hows and whys of his depression and his recovery ... and finally put it to rest.'

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