... one hell of a read ... [Laura's] search for identity leads her toward relinquishing her individuality. Adolescence is rife with those temptations, rendered thoughtfully and evocatively by Burton ... I’ll concede that I—a middle-aged man—am not necessarily the target audience for this book. Yet one could argue that Burton’s ability to make this tale resonate with me speaks to a universality that belies the seeming narrowness of focus ... While there were a few reasons that I started the book, the reason that I stayed was Burton. Combining writerly skill with narrative depth isn’t something that everyone can do—there are plenty of stylists I admire who can’t tell a story, and plenty of gifted storytellers whose prose is plain—but Burton makes it all seem easy. We glide through the story, moments of intimacy and excitement treated with equal respect. It is truthful, delicate work.
I didn’t know what I was getting when I picked up The World Cannot Give. As it turns out, what I got was my biggest literary surprise of the year thus far.
Burton writes with a heart-stopping understanding of the micro-dynamics among adolescents still uncentered at their cores. The insular campus setting and small scenes in crypts, libraries, and dorm rooms that contain big emotions and powerful dialogue will make readers cringe at what they can see coming ... Burton skillfully offers readers treacherous and believable adolescent experiences surrounding sex and suicide.
Burton develops what begins as an apparent Donna Tartt pastiche into a defiantly distinct meditation on power, desire, and the search for self ... Deftly drawn, deeply insecure characters complement the melodramatic plot, which crescendos to a devastating close. An incandescent exploration of adolescent angst.
Burton underwhelms with a redux of her debut, Social Creature, in which an egotistical alpha girl seduces a naive disciple ... The plot advances too transparently in service of proving a familiar truism: young people on the cusp of adulthood, longing to find meaning, face ethical, sexual, and spiritual crises. It’s an inspired effort, but it doesn’t break any new ground.