|Publisher:||Delacorte Books for Young Readers|
Bobby Burns knows he’s a lucky lad. Growing up in sleepy Keely Bay, Bobby is exposed to all manner of wondrous things: stars reflecting off the icy sea, a friend that can heal injured fawns with her dreams, a man who can eat fire. But darkness seems to be approaching Bobby’s life from all sides. Bobby’s new school is a cold, cruel place. His father is suffering from a mysterious illness that threatens to tear his family apart. And the USA and USSR are testing nuclear missiles and creeping closer and closer to a world-engulfing war.
Together with his wonder-working friend, Ailsa Spink, and the fire-eating illusionist McNulty, Bobby will learn to believe in miracles that will save the people and place he loves.
Continuing his tradition of strange and wild novels for young adults, David Almond, in The Fire Eaters, introduces a bizarre character making a sparse living as a self-mutilating, fire-swallowing street performer. McNulty’s existence shakes young protagonist Bobby Burns to the core as he contemplates the end of the world (the year is 1962 and the U.S. and Soviet Union seem to be heading toward nuclear war), power, pain, class, and death, as well as friendship. The menace and sweetness in Bobby’s life parallels the worlds, big and small, he inhabits. A loving family, seaside home, and good friends form the foundation. But a crack in that wall is spreading: Bobby’s father is ill, class differences are separating him from his best friend, and a ruthless schoolmaster is forcing Bobby to understand that everything has a price. McNulty’s growled refrain—”Pay! You’ll not see nowt till you pay!”—reiterates the lesson for the often bewildered, but ever stronger boy. Readers familiar with Almond’s other haunting books, including the award-winning Skellig, will welcome this rich, challenging novel. As always, Almond refuses to shy away from the big topics, resulting in a novel dappled with light and dark, filled with wonder and mystery. (Ages 12 and older) —Emilie Coulter