Runyon, Brent 1976(?)-
Runyon, Brent 1976(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1976; son of Don (a college administrator) and Linda (a kindergarten teacher) Runyon; partner of Christina Egloff (a radio producer). Education: Attended Ithaca College.
CAREER: Writer and radio producer. National Public Radio, contributor to program This American Life.
The Burn Journals (memoir), Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Brent Runyon's suicide attempt at age fourteen is the subject of his book The Burn Journals. As the title of the memoir suggests, Runyon attempted to end his life by donning a gasoline-soaked bathrobe and setting it on fire. Although the teen instantaneously changed his mind and jumped into a nearby shower, he still suffered severe burns over eighty-five percent of his body.
Runyon's memoir primarily chronicles his year of recovery as he undergoes painful skin grafting, enters a rehabilitation center, and ultimately must face the terrifying prospect of returning to school. Although he had been depressed and made other less-drastic but noticeable attempts at suicide prior to the burning, he remains uncertain as to the reason why he decided to set himself on fire that particular day. When asked during an interview with Lynda Brill Comerford for Publishers Weekly what he hoped readers would gain from his harrowing memoir, Runyon replied, "Insight into the adolescent mind. What I truly wish could happen would be that this book could somehow travel back in time and land in the hands of me when I was thirteen years old. Then I would read the book and not set myself on fire."
A Publishers Weekly contributor called The Burn Journals "engrossing from first page to last" and went on to note that, "Despite its dark subject matter, this powerful chronicle … expresses hope, celebrates life and provides an opportunity to slip inside the skin of a survivor with a unique perspective." Johanna Lewis, writing in the School Library Journal, commented that "Depression regret, and rebirth are the themes that tie the narrative, and the subtle tension among the three are beautifully related, offering no neat resolution." In a review for Horn Book, Christine M. Heppermann noted of The Burn Journals: "There's a lot of emotion beneath Runyon's narrative; when it does break through to the surface, it is all the more powerful for its simplicity and directness." Booklist contributor Jennifer Mattson stated that the book "can and should be ready by young adults, as much for its literary merit as for its authentic perspective on what it means to attempt suicide."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Runyon, Brent, The Burn Journals, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.
Booklist, June 1, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Burn Journals, p. 1753.
Horn Book, November-December, 2004, Christine M. Heppermann, review of The Burn Journals, p. 731.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2004, review of The Burn Journals, p. 693.
People, December 6, 2004, Allison Adato and Tom Duffy, "The Third Degree."
Psychology Today, September-October, 2004, Willow Lawson, review of The Burn Journals, p. 28.
Publishers Weekly, October 11, 2004, review of The Burn Journals, p. 81; October 11, 2004, Lynda Brill Comerford, "The Journey Back," author interview, p. 81.
School Library Journal, November, 2004, Johanna Lewis, review of The Burn Journals, p. 172.
http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/ (February 25, 2005), "Brent Runyon."