Cover image for Burning up
Burning up
Cooney, Caroline B.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
230 pages ; 22 cm
When a girl she had met at an innercity church is murdered, fifteen-year-old Macey channels her grief into a school project that leads her to uncover prejudice she had not imagined in her grandparents and their wealthy Connecticut community.
Reading Level:
720 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.0 8.0 25296.

Reading Counts RC High School 4.9 10 Quiz: 19084 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Fifteen-year-old Macey Clare loves her Connecticut hometown, where her mother grew up and her grandparents still live, and she likes visiting her grandparents even more now that their neighbors' handsome grandson, Austin, has moved in. But when Macey decides to research the history of a burned-out barn across the street from her grandparents' home for a school report, she gets a shock about what happened. Nobody can change the past, but is Macey ready to take the responsibility for the present and in the process reveal dark secrets about her town and the people she loves?

Author Notes

Caroline Cooney was born in 1947 in Geneva, New York. She studied music, art, and English at various colleges, but never graduated. She began writing while in college. Her young adult books include The Face on the Milk Carton, Whatever Happened to Janie?, The Voice on the Radio, What Janie Found, No Such Person, and the Cheerleaders Series. She received an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and an ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults for Driver's Ed and an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers for Twenty Pageants Later. Two of her titles, The Rear View Mirror and The Face on the Milk Cartoon, were made into television movies.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-10. The title has both literal and figurative significance, as Cooney tackles the weighty themes of racism and identity. Fifteen-year-old Macey Clare's life takes an unexpected turn when she and several companions are caught in a deliberately set fire at the inner-city church where Macey has gone for a community service project. Then the senseless murder of an African American teen Macey met at the church calls up whispers of a long-ago incident in Macey's own, much more privileged community--a fire that nearly killed the town's only African American teacher. As Macey investigates, she uncovers not only shabby family secrets but also a lot about herself. The inspirational outcome doesn't go beyond formula; and except for a few scenes, the story evolves slowly. It also regularly switches focus from Macey's concerns to those of her "almost boyfriend," complicating things even more. What Cooney handles best--and what readers will like most--is the tentative boy-girl relationship between Macey and Austin, and the portrayal of the sort of questioning and fervor that propels some teens to look beyond themselves and their families to larger issues. --Stephanie Zvirin

Publisher's Weekly Review

What does a 1959 barn fire in Macey's affluent Connecticut town have to do with an arsonist's attack on an inner-city church where she and classmates volunteer one day? Nothing, as far as the 15-year-old's friends and family are concerned. But Macey, who narrowly escaped the church fire, senses that there is a connection between the two when she researches local history for a school project. Cooney (The Face on the Milk Carton) has produced another tantalizingly dark secret for her protagonist and readers to unravel together. Macey's rising awareness of hate crimes sharply escalates after Venita, whom Macey met at the church, is murdered when she tries to interrupt a gang fight. Macey is appalled by her parents' and grandparents' apparent callousness and their refusal to let her attend the girl's funeral ("Try not to think about Venita," her mother says. "It's so sad, darling, but there is nothing you can do"). Were her grandparents' hearts as cold 40 years ago when the barn apartment of the town's only black resident went up in smoke? Were they responsible for his near death? By interviewing community members and tracking down Mr. Sibley, the tenant of the barn apartment, Macey finds the ugly answers to her questions. Even though Macey's introduction to prejudice and her unshakable nobility are slightly overdrawn, she remains a sympathetic figure, just stubborn and vulnerable enough to be real. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-10‘Researching a local-history project for school, 15-year-old Macey happens upon a 1959 arson case that targeted the first African-American teacher in her privileged Connecticut town. Shocked to learn that her community could have been so racially biased as to tolerate this attempted murder, she is further outraged when she realizes the extent to which her community remains segregated. Using library and Internet resources as well as interviews, Macey and her boyfriend, Austin, gradually uncover enough facts to confront the prejudice they perceive in others and begin to assess their own level of responsibility. This story line is strong. Clever phrasing and likable central characters enliven the story. The emotions are palpable, and the topic is important. Unfortunately, other details detract. Coincidentally, Macey, Austin, and friends are nearly killed by an arsonist while performing a community-service project. Coincidentally, the black girl Macey worked with is soon killed in an altercation with a gang. Macey and Austin live as neighbors with their respective grandparents and their romance is sweetly portrayed. However, it seems unrealistic that Austin would rather go back to Chicago to hope for his parents' reconciliation than finish the last three weeks of school with Macey. Extensive foreshadowing seems melodramatic and overwrought. It rankles that the word "fire" or related terms are present on more than one-third of the pages. Macey's investigation into racism is heartfelt and her personal commitment to action is laudable, but the book is not entirely convincing.‘Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Jr. High School, Iowa City, IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



How strange Macey felt around Austin: this lifelong acquaintance she did not know well, this neighbor who had saved her life, this cutie. You got a crush on that boy? That one named for Texas? "Nothing special," she said to her mother. "It's just a stick. By the way, Mom, when the Demitroffs' barn burned down, back in 1959, was somebody living in it or not?" "It's so upsetting when you keep bringing up fire, Macey," said her mother. "Did you tell us everything there is to tell about getting your hair burned?" "Now that I've felt fire, I'm interested in fire." The word fire wasn't quite right. It was arson that interested her. But she hadn't told her parents about any arson. "I'm doing it for my history paper." "Oh, Mace," said her mother. "You're going to have to put so many hours into this project. At least choose a topic that matters." "I'll ask Mrs. Johnson about other topics," Macey said. She might, too, although she'd be asking about topics for Austin. She was staying with the fire. "But I still want to know. Did anybody live in that barn? In 1959?" "My science teacher. Mr. Sibley." "There was an apartment then?" said Macey. "Oh, yes, it was such a sweet place. Everybody oohed and ahhed when they saw it.  Of course, I never saw it when Mr. Sibley was living there, but most years it was rented to a new teacher, and I'd bring a plate of Mother's cookies or a casserole and say hi and welcome to the neighborhood, and I'd wander around and inspect the apartment." "But you didn't bring cookies to Mr. Sibley?" said Macey. There was a slight pause. "I don't remember," her mother said. But you do remember, thought Macey. You remember you were never inside when Mr. Sibley lived there. Until now, Macey had forgotten the other pause, the faint pause before her grandparents answered questions about that old fire, and once more, the old fire prickled at her. Excerpted from Burning Up by Caroline B. Cooney All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.