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Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan

Flash Burnout
y L.K. Madigan

Publishing Information: Houghton Mifflin: New York, 2009
ISBN: 9780547194899 / 9780547404936 (PB) / 9781441882448 (Audio)
: 332 p.
Ages: 13 & Up

After he takes a photograph of a woman who is lviing on the streets and discovers it to be the meth-addicted mother of his closest friend Marissa, Blake finds himself spending more time with Marissa than with his girlfriend.

Fifteen-year-old Blake has a girlfriend and a friend who’s a girl. One of them loves him, the other one needs him.

When he snapped a picture of a street person for his photography homework, Blake never dreamed that the woman in the photo was his friend Marissa’s long-lost meth addicted mom. Blake’s participation in the ensuing drama opens up a world of trouble, both for him and for Marissa. He spends the next few months trying to reconcile the conflicting roles of Boyfriend and Friend. His experiences range from the comic (surviving his dad’s birth control talk) to the tragic (a harrowing after-hours visit to the morgue).

In a tangle of life and death, love and loyalty, Blake will emerge with a more sharply defined snapshot of himself.

Book Talk:
How can one little photograph so totally change people's lives?

High school sophomore Blake has a good life— cool parents, manageable classes, good buddlies, and a hot new girlfriend. But when he goes downtown to get a photo for his "Intro to Photography" class, he finds included the snapshot of a woman passed out on the sidewalk. The photo changes everything!

The woman in the picture turns out to be the long-lost meth-addicted mom of his friend Marissa. Knowing that her mom is so near, Marissa is intent on finding and helping her. Marissa desperately needs Blake’s help in the hunt and for emotional support.

Blake's girlfriend, Shannon, tries not to be jealous, but with Blake spending so much time with Marissa, it's hard not to be possessive. As their search for Marissa's mom becomes more compelling, Shannon becomes more demanding, and Blake feels torn between the two girls.

And when his relationship with one of the girls becomes more intimate, Blake has to learn some very difficult lessons.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Children of Drug Abusers
Homeless People
Self-Actualization in Teenagers

Awards & Reviews:
Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2010
Illinois Lincolnd Award Nominee, 2012
Iowa High School Book Award Nominee, 2012
Maryland Black-eyed Susand Award Nominee, 2011
Missouri Gateway Readers Award Nominee, 2012
Oklahoma Sequoyah Award Nominee, 2012
Texas Tayshas Reading LIst, 2012
William C. Morris Young Debut Winner, 2010

Booklist, September 15, 2009 (Starred Review)
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January 1, 2010
Horn Book
, April 1, 2009
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2009
School Library Journal, November 1, 2009 (Starred Review)

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. What is the difference between a girl friend and a girlfriend? Can you have both?
  2. Blake has a hard time trying to balance between Shannon and Marissa. Several times when he’s with Marissa, he feels he has to tell himself that he’s doing nothing wrong. Is he right? 
  3. How are Shannon and Marissa similar? How are they different? Which (if either) do you think should be Blake’s girlfriend?
  4. Blake’s mother tells him often that actions have consequences. What are some examples of this from the book? Did Blake learn from these consequences? What are some examples from your own life and what did you learn?
  5. How do you feel about the book’s ending? Would you change it if you could? How?
  6. Why do you think it is so important to Marissa to participate in Hurtle?

Related Websites:
Author's Website -
Author's Blog - (Note: Author passed away in February of 2011)
BetterPhoto: Photography for Kids and Teens -
TeenInk: Teen Photography at Its Best -

Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender, 2009
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier, 2002
Broken Soup
by Jenny Valentine, 2009
by Linda Sue Park [et al.], 2007
King Dork
 by Frank Portmam, 2006
A Little Friendly Advice
by Sibhan Vivian, 2008
One Shot
by Susan Glick, 2003
Picture Perfect
by Elaine Marie Alphin, 2003
Playing With Matches by Brian Katcher, 2008
Rain is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith, 2001
by Ellen Wittlinger, 2001 (2002 RITBA Nominee)
Scab by Robert Rayner, 2010
by Carol Snow, 2009
Sources of Light
by Margaret McMullan (2012 RITBA Nominee)
by Sarah Zarr, 2008
The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBrid, 2010
This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record by Susannah Felts, 2008

Other Books by the Author:
The Mirmaid's Mirror
, 2010

About the Author:
About Me (from the author’s website:

I was born in Portland, Oregon, but when I was ten years old, my parents moved to Los Angeles. They were pretty insistent that I accompany them. I spent the rest of my formative years in L.A. (the Valley, to be exact … a region made famous in both song and film). When I was 28, I decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in L.A., even though I had a cool job working at Warner Bros. Records. My husband and I decided to relocate to my hometown. I was pretty insistent that he accompany me. Living in Portland and L.A. made me the kind of person who is equally at home sitting in traffic jams or walking in the rain.

I love to travel. I lived in northern England for a year while I was in college, where I learned to appreciate warm beer, milky tea, and Indian curries. I traveled around Europe while I lived there – those were the days when travel was cheap. I miss those days. Now when I travel, I am accompanied by my husband and son. In 2007 we went to England and Scotland to load up on castles, accents, and lochs. My favorite part of that trip was spending time with friends from my university days. Now our kids play together … a new generation of international friendship!
We love meeting new people and exploring new places, but we’re always happy to come home to our funny dogs, who have two missions in life: shedding long black hair and tracking mud into the house.

FLASH BURNOUT was published in October 2009. My second young adult novel, a fantasy titled THE MERMAID’S MIRROR, is scheduled for release in Fall 2010. My road to publication has been filled with potholes and bumps, steep uphill trudges and deep downhill slides, laughter, tears, and always, the sound of friends and family cheering me on. I feel very lucky.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair