Review for “Girls on Fire” by Robin Wasserman (2016)
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
When I finished this book, I shut off my Kindle and stared at the ceiling for about 10 minutes, thinking: whoa, buddy.
“Girls on Fire” is the story of a destructive friendship between two teenage girls in a small Pennsylvania town. Lacey is the dark, brooding, Nirvana-crazed rocker, Hannah is the mousy, quiet girl from a straight-laced family. Set in the early 90s, the story opens with the shocking discovery of the body of a popular athlete in local woods, ruled a suicide. Lacey and Hannah (called “Dex” by Lacey and throughout the book) bond over their hatred of the athlete’s girlfriend, Nikki Drummond, the beautiful ‘queen bee’ of their high school.
What follows after Lacey and Dex collide is nothing short of intense, with detailed descriptions of their adventures with sex, drugs, and satanic experiences. The novel is told in a dual perspective, with alternating chapters by both Dex and Lacey. There’s lots of Nirvana (particularly Kurt Cobain) mentions through this book, as well as other 90’s pop culture references to give you an excellent sense of time and place. People not hip to this decade’s charm may find the nostalgia annoying, but as a teenage myself during this time in history, I did not.
I can’t tell you guys how lovely the writing is in this book. I think I malfunctioned my Kindle with the constant underlining of passages. Some chapters were so freakin’ beautiful that I had to read them aloud, write them out for myself. Once this book really got going for me I could not put it down. Dex and Lacey are equal parts unlikeable and complex. One moment the mother in me wanted to hold them close, the next moment the practical side of me wanted to lecture them, to try to plant some common sense into their brains. It’s a captivating tale, and I was all along for the ride.
Be forewarned, however, that this is a very dark novel. Think: Gillian Flynn. Think: Stephen King’s “Carrie.” It’s not YA, and I don’t think it has a prayer to ever be considered such. If you don’t mind dark stories (non-humorous, just dark) then this is the book for you (note: personally I love gloom and doom every now and then, it helps me to balance out the scarily bright and cheery). Do read this book though, if you get a chance. I can’t recommend it enough.