REVIEW: Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig


You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.

Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault. You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get bit.

Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.

Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?

Revised edition: Previously published as two volumes, Shotgun Gravy and Bait Dog, this combined edition includes editorial revisions.

Amazon link:

MEL’S REVIEW: Author Chuck Wendig has never exactly been known for holding back. If you have ever read his blog or his books (including The Blue Blazes, the Miriam Black series, and his young adult Heartland Trilogy), you’ve seen his NSFW MO. If you expected anything else from his newest book, Atlanta Burns, you will be either overjoyed or sorely disappointed. This is Chuck Wendig at his truest and finest form.

Atlanta Burns hold no punches. Atlanta, the main character, is a teenage girl who has been through a lot. But unlike many of the angst-ridden teens we read about in YA fiction, she doesn’t take this crap lying down. No way. Atlanta takes matters into her own hands and exacts her own brand of justice. She’s like a teenage superhero with the balls to face danger without a mask or cape. She’s a teenager with a shotgun, and she’s done letting people pray on the weak.

Wendig has accomplished something pretty cool with this novel. Not only does he deal with topics like suicide, homosexuality, bullying, dog fighting/animal rights, absentee parenting, sexual abuse, and drugs—he deals with them all in one book in a realistic way that doesn’t feel heavy-handed. We don’t get that syndrome I see so often in teen books, where so many things happen to one person that it’s unbelievable. Most importantly, however, he captures the helpless, powerless feeling of being a teen so well, and in a way adults can understand, which is possibly the most interesting thing. Atlanta’s problems are not petty, and they are far-reaching. I never felt the eye-rolling exasperation I get when I read some YA “issues” books, I never felt like the main character had to get over herself, because she wasn’t in it for herself. She puts her life on the line for her friends, and while yes, life would have been easier had she just lain low and let things happen…well, this is Atlanta Burns we’re talking about here.

Every time I asked myself “how can this get any worse?” it did. Things got to the point where I had to say, “This can’t possibly end well,” yet the book did end in a satisfying way. No one is unscathed, but life does go on.

Is this a good book for teens? Would it be appropriate for your teen? Well, as with anything, you know your kids best. I thought this was a great book, and Atlanta is a kickass heroine that adults and mature teens can love. Very sensitive teens might want to wait a while on it though, as there are some animal cruelty issues as well as some drug usage.

Kudos to Chuck Wendig for another no-holds-barred winner!

REVIEW: Chuck Wendig’s BLIGHTBORN (Heartland Trilogy #2)

BLIGHTBORNSummary: Cael McAvoy is on the run. He’s heading toward the Empyrean to rescue his sister, Merelda, and to find Gwennie before she’s lost to Cael forever. With his pals, Lane and Rigo, Cael journeys across the Heartland to catch a ride into the sky. But with Boyland and others after them, Cael and his friends won’t make it through unchanged.

Gwennie’s living the life of a Lottery winner, but it’s not what she expected. Separated from her family, Gwennie makes a bold move—one that catches the attention of the Empyrean and changes the course of an Empyrean man’s life.

The crew from Boxelder aren’t the only folks willing to sacrifice everything to see the Empyrean fall. The question is: Can the others be trusted?

They’d all better hurry. Because the Empyrean has plans that could ensure that the Heartland never fights back again.

Chuck Wendig’s riveting sequel to Under the Empyrean Sky plunges readers into an unsettling world of inequality and destruction, and fleshes out a cast of ragtag characters all fighting for survival and, ultimately, change.



This book was everything awesome that the first Heartland book, UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY, was, and more. Wendig’s characters are like real people, multi-dimensional and complicated. There are no cliche cardboard cutout archetypes or tropes here. Every character has their strengths, weaknesses, things that you love, and things that make you want to scream.

I went into this book expecting a second book, maybe a little saggy, like many middle books of trilogies are. Hell no. This book kept me engaged the entire time, kept me wondering what would happen next, and kept surprising me. The setting details are fantastic, the action and pacing impeccable. In this book, we learn so much more about the characters we already know/love/hate from the first book, and meet several new folks, too. Things grow more complicated as the plot thickens, and the world isn’t as black and white as it perhaps seemed earlier in the series.

Something that stood out for me about this book as I read it is Wendig’s treatment of his younger characters. There is no talking down here, no weird older author’s take on teens. This is an author who understands the way a seventeen year old thinks, and tells it like it is. Wendig’s respect for his subjects is clear. There is no annoying whining here, like I’ve noticed in several other YA books I’ve read. These are characters who teens can be proud of, who they can sympathize with. Sure, they have their rough moments, but they take action. They make mistakes, but they learn.

The future Wendig has portrayed here is eerily reflective of issues happening today–I can see how this world could exist. The themes of this trilogy are timely and thought provoking.

BLIGHTBORN is an action packed, emotional ride that both teens and adults would enjoy. The only negative part is that I have to wait a year before getting my hands on the next one!

This book will be released on July 29. You can pre-order your copy HERE.

Review: THE KICK-ASS WRITER by Chuck Wendig

ImageThis writing book is prophetic!! 

You can use this book in many different ways. First, the normal way. Read it from cover to cover. You’ll definitely want to do that because this baby is FULL of excellent writing advice presented in an entertaining yet oddly motivating fashion. I love Chuck’s voice. He seems to say the things I need to hear in the way I need to hear them. Every aspect of writing that I could think of (inspiration, plot, theme, character, querying, websites, marketing…) is covered in this book in easily digestible nuggets.

The second way you could use this book? Well, that’s when he get into the metaphysical. Close your eyes and open the book to any random page. ANY. Jab your finger down and read that passage. IT WILL APPLY TO YOUR PROBLEM. Chuck’s book will change the way you not only write, but live your life. Read the words behind the words…it’s deep, man. Actually, it’s even MORE helpful to do this when you are stuck with your story, because even when the advice doesn’t apply to the exact problem you think you have, somehow thinking about these small chunks of info is enough to get things moving again in unexpected ways.

I was even brought to tears (no, for real) when I read #1 under “25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing Right Now”: STOP RUNNING AWAY. Yeah. Why have I been trying for ten years to have a career in writing but have NOTHING TO SHOW FOR IT (aside from the publication of a couple lame short stories that I received all of $5 for)? Because I run away. Every time something starts going my way…well, have you ever noticed, my friends? Some big new opportunity jumps up in my life, or tragedy strikes, or…yeah. It’s all bullsh*t. I mean, it doesn’t SEEM like bullsh*t at the time, I don’t feel like I’m making crap up. but really, all I’m doing is letting stuff get in my way. That whole chapter of things to stop doing was a huge eye-opener for me. Not because it was new info, but just the way Wendig said it. This book may be called THE KICK-ASS WRITER, but I feel like in parts, it’s the ass-kicking *I* needed.

In all seriousness, this book, well, kicks ass. It’s equal parts funny, inspiring, and instructional. It’ll get your writing engines rolling and kick your career into high gear. So what are you waiting for?

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer, and is the author of such novels as BlackbirdsMockingbirdThe Blue Blazes, and Under the Empyrean Sky. He lives is Pennsyltucky with his wife, son, and two dogs. You can find more at, where he frequently dispenses dubious advice on writing, publishing, and life in general.

Kindle Worlds–Fan Fictioneers, Are You Ready to Get Paid to Play?

Amazon has just announced the launch of its new “Kindle Worlds” platform for fan fiction, which will allow writers to get paid to write stories set in the worlds of their favorite TV shows, or potentially books and movies, too. You can read the official press release HERE.

Also interesting are John Scalzi’sMatt Forbeck’s, Jim C. Hines’s, and Chuck Wendig’s views on the matter. I’m sure there will be about a billion others coming out as the day passes as well.

I’m very torn about this myself. There are soooo many pros and cons. Can a reader tell the difference between a licensed tie-in novel and one of these fan fic ones that may or may not have stayed true to the essence of the story world? Will they be labeled? Will this encourage a flood of copyright violations of works not in this program, as people come to think it is their right to just play wherever they want and get paid for it?

This doesn’t even get into Amazon’s potential to really take advantage of the writers. It seems, from what I can tell at this early stage, that they can take a story that’s doing well on the platform, and basically run with it, making $$ off of it that the writer will never see.

In theory, writing for the platform sounds like a fun idea. I don’t really have a problem with fan fic per se, I know some people who write it, and heck, in my younger years I wrote some myself (but never expected to get paid for it, or even thought that anyone would read it!). If the right story line comes up, I might even consider doing it.

One thing I do wonder about is the watering down of the original stories and worlds. On Forbeck’s Facebook page I said:

This is very interesting… I’m reserving judgement for now–as you point out, there are pros and cons, as there are with everything. I’m wondering about watering down the original brand/story/world, and how far reaching that impact will be. I know licensed tie-ins often are picky for that reason. They want the story to be true to the characters, the world, the core things that make that story world what it is. I can see some of that getting potentially lost with this endeavor, stories losing their essences, and if the newer versions are really popular, WB and whoever else jumps on could run with them vs. the originals. I’m torn about this. For a writer of the original, or a purist, that could be painful. But other people would say, “Hey, go where the money is. Evolve, or get lost.” That being said, it sounds like a potentially fun idea, to get paid to play in someone else’s sandbox, with few limitations.

As with anything, we’re just going to have to wait and see how this plays out–if more things aren’t optioned, it may crash and burn. But if the right story line comes up, I may not just sit on the sidelines of this one. As a writer who is also a fan, I can see some pretty exciting possibilities here, as long as everyone plays nicely.