A Stunning Portrayal of Teenage Despair and Recovery

The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon

Lindsay Duell, Staff Writer

** Trigger Warning: This book mentions suicide and other sensitive topics**

“I step into the bathtub and I put the bathrobe over my shoulders. It’s wet and heavy, but there’s something kind of comforting about the smell, like going on a long car trip. I hold the box of matches out in front of me in my left hand,” (Runyon).

This is an excerpt from The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon, an autobiography about Brent’s suicide attempt when he was 14. Brent drowned his bathrobe in gasoline, put it on, and lit a match. He regretted his decision as soon as he lit the match. Following the attempt, he was admitted to a hospital for a painful recovery. The book follows his healing journey, both physically and mentally. He spent months in the hospital with third-degree burns covering over 85% of his body, then spent an even longer amount of time working on his mental health after the suicide attempt. The Burn Journals follows Bunyon’s remarkable recovery from his first moments of awareness after the attempt, to when he exited his final medical procedure. 

The amount of recall that Runyon has is awe-striking and gives a full perspective of him as a 14-year-old boy. The imagery he utilizes to portray most of his journey gives descriptions that allow the audience to feel like they are immersed within Runyon’s experiences.  

On one page he wrote, “She has a nice voice. She keeps asking me if I’m still on fire and I say, ‘I don’t think so.’ I’m walking around the kitchen, waiting for the ambulance to come. I can see my reflection in the microwave. Where’s my hair? Where did my hair go? Is that my face?,” (Runyon). His sudden and sporadic questioning thoughts give such depth and a realistic touch to the writing.

In addition, Runyon made sure to let the personalities of his different nurses and doctors shine through his own bias. Reading this book gave an insight into a side of mental health that most are afraid to approach. I would recommend this book to a mature audience that is able to handle heavy topics such as suicide. Students who are studying mental health for an A.P. project would benefit greatly from this book.

My overall rating of The Burn Journals is 4 out of 5 stars. The book is an accurate and memorable representation of people who struggle with intrusive thoughts and mental illness. Brent Runyon stood up to share his story and became a powerful representative for survivors of suicide.