Review | She’s Too Pretty To Burn by Wendy Heard

The summer is winding down in San Diego. Veronica is bored, caustically charismatic, and uninspired in her photography. Nico is insatiable, subversive, and obsessed with chaotic performance art. They’re artists first, best friends second. But that was before Mick. Delicate, lonely, magnetic Mick: the perfect subject, and Veronica’s dream girl. The days are long and hot―full of adventure―and soon they are falling in love. Falling so hard, they never imagine what comes next. One fire. Two murders. Three drowning bodies. One suspect . . . one stalker. This is a summer they won’t survive.

Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, this sexy psychological thriller explores the intersections of love, art, danger, and power.

I didn’t really get into this until about halfway through the book, but by that point, things had become so dark and twisty that I simply couldn’t put it down.

She’s Too Pretty to Burn is not so much a retelling of Dorian Gray as a story inspired by it — obsessive artists going to extreme lengths to put out their work, and losing control of themselves in the process. And that is mirrored in the reader’s own journey, from initially agreeing with the messages behind the installations to feeling complicit once things escalate to a point of no return.

The main area where She’s Too Pretty to Burn fell flat for me were the characters. That the main relationships were toxic and obsessive didn’t bother me; that seemed true to the source material, at least from the bits of Dorian Gray that I’ve read. They did progress extremely quickly, however, for a story that took place over a span of only 10 days. As a result, it felt like the characters were kept at arms’ length and that I only gleaned a surface-level understanding of who they were. A deeper dive into their motivations, especially as it surrounds their roles as artist, curator, and subject, would have made for a more impactful story.

Overall, She’s Too Pretty to Burn took a bit to grow on me, but the art-oriented segments and exhilarating ending made it worth the while.

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