The Fire-Eaters
published in 2005

Details

Appropriate age:
Tween/Young Teen (age 12-14)
Reading level:
Grade 4
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Culture: Europe
Subjects: Friendship, Geography, Social Issues, Adolescence, Values

Description

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