A firebug has woken inside my heart Dark times have fallen on remote Balrog County, and Mack Druneswald, a high school senior with a love of arson, is doing his best to deal. While his family is haunted by his mother’s recent death, Mack spends his nights roaming the countryside, looking for something new to burn. When he encounters Katrina, a college girl with her own baggage, Mack sets out on a path of pyromania the likes of which sleepy Balrog County has never seen before. A darkly comic tour-de-force, The Firebug of Balrog County is about legend, small towns, and the fire that binds. Praise: "Take one angry 18-year-old, sprinkle with zingy narrative, and add a match."—Kirkus Reviews "Spectacular—and satisfying." —St. Paul Pioneer Press "This darkly comic coming-of-age story with tremendously likable characters also packs a serious emotional punch."—StarTribune "David Oppegaard's The Firebug of Balrog County kept me up all night. I liked Mack, the firebug, so much, I wanted to save him myself. I wanted to climb in the story and call the cops."—Geoff Herbach, author of Stupid Fast "Beautifully written and full of honest characters...This book is a winner."—VOYA "In this biting coming-of-age novel . . . Oppegaard doesn't offer an easy solution to Mack's problems, instead opting for a realistic and sensitive resolution that leaves on a hopeful note."—Booklist "A great read."—School Library Connection
Oppegaard (And the Hills Opened Up) creates a believable portrayal of the different ways that loss affects a family, with small decisions building into far-reaching consequences. High school senior Mack Druneswald has been drifting since his mother's death, working at the hardware store in his small town of Hickson and periodically feeding the "firebug" in his heart with non-targeted acts of arson. The narrative moves between Mack's present life and his retelling of his mother's five-year struggle with cancer, drawing subtle but strong parallels between Mack's pyromania and his mother's disease. While Mack and his family work through their grief, he runs more risks: involving his new girlfriend in his activities, writing anonymous letters to the newspaper claiming responsibility for the fires, and targeting the local curmudgeon's property. As the cat-and-mouse game between Mack, as arsonist, and the mayor, his grandfather, escalates, so do the tensions between Mack, as family member, and his father and sister. A well-realized setting and Oppegaard's resistance to tidily resolving the story's conflicts both contribute to the novel's solid sense of realism. Ages 12 up.