Burn Out by Kristi Helvig

A complimentary advanced reader copy of this book was provided by Egmont in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!) My review was in no way influenced by this consideration.


This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.

I really wanted to fall in love with Burn Out, but it just didn’t quite flow for me.

From Goodreads:

A futuristic blend of Beth Revis’s Across the Universe and Lenore Appelhans’s Level 2, Burn Out will satisfy the growing desire for science fiction with a thrilling story of survival, intrigue, and adventure.

Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth’s final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns “red giant,” but discovers her fellow survivors are even deadlier than the hostile environment.

Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora is alone–her brilliant scientist father murdered, her mother and sister burned to death. She dreams of living on a planet with oceans, plants, and animals. Unfortunately, the oceans dried out ages ago, the only plants are giant cacti with deadly spines, and her pet, Trigger, is a gun–one of the bio-energetic weapons her father created for the government before his conscience kicked in.

When family friend, Markus, arrives with mercenaries to take the weapons by force, Tora’s fury turns to fear when government ships descend in an attempt to kill them all. She forges an unlikely alliance with Markus and his rag-tag group of raiders, including a smart but quiet soldier named James. Tora must quickly figure out who she can trust, as she must choose between saving herself by giving up the guns or honoring her father’s request to save humanity from the most lethal weapons in existence.

The plot certainly sounded exciting, and in the beginning, I really liked Tora. She was clearly smart, tough, and willing to do whatever she needed to in order to keep her father’s weapons from falling into the wrong hands. Tora’s relationship with Markus was interesting, in the beginning, but when his group makes an entrance, things start to fall apart.

James, the love interest, seems like an OK guy, based on the couple of real conversations he and Tora get to have. There just wasn’t enough here for me to really feel a connection to him, as a reader, and I couldn’t ever quite figure out what the draw was for either him or Tora. We hear a lot about how “hot” James is, but don’t get much chance to get to know what’s attractive about his personality. (The few glimpses we do have are nice, but….) As for Tora, I like her, but we never have any idea what might draw James to her. The whole relationship just felt so superficial and instantaneous to me that I couldn’t get into it.

The other characters in the book are similarly underdeveloped. We had a few moments to catch a glimpse of Britta, but I would have liked to understand her a little better. There’s not enough in the book to quite understand why Tora would ultimately have much sympathy for her. Kale was just all over the place for me.

As for the plot, I really enjoyed it, but it came to an end so abruptly that I actually thought something must be wrong with my review copy. I get that Helvig’s trying to set us up for a series, but I’ve never felt so confused and unfulfilled by the ending of a series beginner. It was just kind of strange.

The quality of the writing, apart from the problems I’ve pointed out, was good–I stayed entertained, even when I was confused by the way people were acting, and I did enjoy what I was reading. I just think this book is capable of so much more. I would be interested in reading the next book in the series to see how things get fleshed out, but Burn Out didn’t feel like the heavy-hitter I wanted it to be.

A bit of language, some of which seems a little gratuitous. Otherwise clean. 2.5 stars.

2.5 Stars

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