The novel Melody Burning by Whitley Strieber takes place in modern-day Los Angeles at the most luxurious high-rise in the city, the Beresford. Melody McGrath is a rising pop star whose genuine voice and touching songs are taking her to the top of the charts. Beresford is a boy with a mysterious past; he can’t remember who he is or why he has grown up in the majestic skyscraper known as the Beresford. All his life has been spent navigating along the iron structure of the Beresford building, sliding through crawl spaces and elevator shafts, checking on residents and anonymously keeping the peace. Beresford’s fragile existence is threatened by his love of Melody and her haunting voice, and the realization that he will do anything to protect her, even if she doesn’t know he exists. But darker forces are at play, darker plans that were set in motion years before Beresford had ever been to the building that is his namesake. And little does anyone know these plans could very well be the death of them all.
The concept of Melody Burning is intriguing and interesting—a boy who has lived inside a building his entire life, never being found or killed. But from the first chapter I found that I was disappointed by the way the characters were handled. It wasn’t only that I didn’t believe that this story line could happen, but that the author did not seem to try to bolster the idea with any realistic emotions or plot details.
Supposedly little Beresford is abandoned in the high-rise as it is being constructed, after his father, who is visiting the newly-constructed building as a photographer, plummets to his death off the scaffolding. And no one comes looking for Beresford? The construction workers building the high-rise don’t ever notice a little boy? Beresford doesn’t leave the building? Why not? Why doesn’t he leave when he is older and understands more? Beresford steals the clothes and food of the residents of the building, so why does no one notice? On top of this, when Melody moves into the Beresford, she knows that someone is outside her walls, stalking her every move. Yet when Beresford sneaks into her room in the middle of the night as she is sleeping and touches her, her response is to instantly fall in love with him, kissing him before he leaves. Does that make any sense? Is that a reasonable reaction?
Because author Whitley Strieber does not offer any explanation for these odd circumstances, the characters lose appeal. They are not so much real, breathing people as they are simple puppets who are easy to manipulate. It is hard to understand their motives or relate to them because their actions are neither lifelike nor believable.
However, the story has a unique premise and is entertaining to read. It’s fast-paced and ends well with an incredible act of bravery. I also like the idea that the whole book comes down to a single moment in time, which adds to the intensity of the final scene. Melody Burning is amusing overall and fine for a simple, light read; however, the bizarre story line lacks credibility and the characters miss realistic personalities.
Morgan Smith is a 13 year old living with her family and cat, Holly, in a small house in Pennsylvania. She loves pretty much every genre of books, from cheesy romance novels to dry nonfiction stories, but her favorite books are historical fiction. She has loved to write and read for as long as she can remember, and she also loves to swim, sew, cook, and so much more.