Review: The Firebug of Balrog County by David Oppegaard

The Firebug of Balrog County by David OppegaardThe Firebug of Balrog County by David Oppegaard
Flux Books
Published: September 8, 2015

Since his mother’s death, the firebug has come to live inside Mack. He knows it’s wrong, but when the bug gets an itch, he can’t ignore the urge to burn something. Then he meets a girl battling her own darkness. Her admiration only fuels his pyromania, and when his grandfather, the town mayor, sets out to stop the anonymous firebug, Mack knows his adventure must come to an end. As the firebug gets harder and harder to deny, he can only hope he won’t end up watching his whole future go up in flames.

Normally this sort of dark, angsty story packed with wry witty humor would be exactly my cup of tea. I’m not sure if it was Mack’s deep anger or his flip attitude that put me off, but I found it really hard to connect with him. About halfway through the story, once it’s clear how much he loves his sister and loved his mom, he started to win me over. What remained a hurdle was the sheer amount of swearing and crudity. I read a lot of books that have profanity in them, and it usually doesn’t bother me. The quantity of profanity in this book really felt gratuitous. I wished more than once that Mack’s mother HAD been around to wash his mouth out with soap, or that his father would man up and attempt it himself.

Despite those issues, I thought the plot was tight. I figured there were a couple of ways I could see the story resolving (both pretty cliché), and the real ending totally came out of left field but made perfect sense. Overall I’d say it was okay, but I would probably not read it again.

Language Content
Extreme profanity and crude language used frequently.

Sexual Content
Mack rides around in a car with a girl and has an erection. His description of how this could become a problem if she notices, etc, is a bit comical. Mack has sex with a girl a couple of times – the act itself isn’t described. The girl denies him any sort of relationship commitment.

Spiritual Content
Since his mom’s illness and death, Mack has some pretty deep (and understandable) anger toward God. At one point late in his mother’s illness, he was desperate enough to pray to God for healing for her. But she died soon after, and he remains convinced his pleas were unheard or ignored.

There are some references to hunting. Mack and his grandfather go bow hunting. A boy is nearly shot with arrows from a hunting bow. A deer runs in front of the car, causing an accident, but no one is injured.

Drug Content
Mack drinks alcohol with his father’s knowledge and consent, despite the fact that he’s underage. He also works at a local bar on Friday and Saturday nights.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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