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?

Chuck Wendig nails the fragile toughness that is Atlanta Burns. While it’s been a decade or two since I was in high school, I still remember the zoo that was the high school I attended. I don’t look back on it with fond memories, so I guess that I was Atlanta Burns, knew her, or needed her at some point.

I read the Bait Dog Kickstarter version with Shotgun Gravy as a prologue. I know that when Skyscape acquired the rights to this and the second book, they re-edited Bait Dog/Shotgun Gravy into this first book. I haven’t compared the two, and Chuck said on his blog that there was a lot of editing, but he felt that it didn’t detract from the story.

I’ve read a lot of Chuck Wendig, and there is a particular voice and agency I expect from his writing. Atlanta Burns does not disappoint. I could almost see Atlanta Burns as a younger, less-jilted version of Miriam Black, one of Wendig’s best characters, albeit with less supernatural, and more a shotgun-toting downtrodden-rescuing bringer of pain.

I’ve always been a fan of Wendig’s economy of words. He writes tight sentences, short scenes, and no-nonsense description. You feel immersed in the setting, albeit sometimes grim, but immersion nonetheless.

Like a lot of Wendig’s work, Atlanta Burns is better experienced rather than explained and is easily a 4.5-star read.

Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter and game designer. He’s the author of many published novels, including but not limited to: Blackbirds, The Blue Blazes, and the YA Heartland series. He is co-writer of the short film Pandemic and the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus. Wendig has contributed over two million words to the game industry. He is also well known for his profane-yet-practical advice to writers, which he dispenses at his blog,, and through several popular e-books, including The Kick-Ass Writer, published by Writers Digest. He currently lives in the forests of Pennsyltucky with wife, tiny human, and red dog.


About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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