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The Burn Journals

By Liz Spikol
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 24, 2008

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Adolescent boys are moody by nature, storming up stairs to play videogames and listening to music with headphones on even during dinner. But Brent Runyon's pubescent angst went beyond the sullen. Runyon was struggling with serious depression, only no one recognized it until it was too late. By the time he was 14, Runyon had already tried to kill himself several times, and when it seemed he might get tossed out of school, he felt lost and tried it again. He went into his bathroom, put on a bathrobe and soaked it in gasoline. Then he lit a match, the robe caught fire, and he burst into flame. His brother was the first to see him, wobbling, alight, at the top of the stairs calling for help. The Burn Journals chronicles not only the few days that led up to this moment but also the year that came after: the agonizing months in intensive care and the burn unit; the multiple surgeries; the pain of looking like a monster and feeling like one too. It's all detailed in spare language that discourages self-pity. The book is especially poignant now. Over the weekend Philadelphia's DJ AM, aka Adam Goldstein, just barely survived a plane crash and is now in critical condition in a burn unit in Georgia. He has a long and painful road ahead of him after his own adolescent hell. If you want to understand what he's about to go through, read Runyon's book. Or read it anyway. It's brilliant.


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