Book review: Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

Thursday, May 5, 2016 Permalink

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman is billed as her first adult novel and – although an enjoyable read for this 48yr old – suspect it will appeal more to young adults.

It reminded me very much of Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard. A YA book I read recently and LOVED.

Book review: Girls on Fire by Robin WassermanGirls on Fire
by Robin Wasserman
on May 5th 2016
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Young Adult
ISBN: 9781408707111
Pages: 368

Hannah Dexter is a nobody, ridiculed at school by golden girl Nikki Drummond and bored at home.

But in their junior year of high school, Nikki's boyfriend walks into the woods and shoots himself. In the wake of the suicide, Hannah finds herself befriending new girl Lacey and soon the pair are inseparable, bonded by their shared hatred of Nikki.

Lacey transforms good girl Hannah into Dex, a Doc Marten and Kurt Cobain fan, who is up for any challenge Lacey throws at her. The two girls bring their combined wills to bear on the community in which they live; unconcerned by the mounting discomfort that their lust for chaos and rebellion causes the inhabitants of their parochial small town, they think they are invulnerable.

But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it's a secret that will change everything . . .

Girls on Fire probably suffered as a result of my aforementioned comparison. If I hadn’t read the two books within a month or so of each other I’d probably cut Girls on Fire a little more slack but it wasn’t as engaging as Beautiful Broken Things and I didn’t connect (as much) with the voices of the young people.

This novel’s set in 1992 and Wasserman does a good job of grounding the plot and settings in that time.

We’re predominantly in the heads of both Hannah (Dex) and Lacey, narrating from their own points of view and sharing their thoughts – and secrets – to which the other is not privy.

Like Caddy in Beautiful Broken Things Hannah’s ripe for the picking by the enigmatic Lacey and the question of whether she’s led astray or she finds her own way there is worthy of some consideration.

It’d be easy to pin ‘what happens’ on Lacey, but because we’re in her head we know what’s happening at home and exactly what she’s thinking and, as a result it’s hard not to sympathise with her.

Girls on Fire takes a darker turn than Beautiful Broken Things and felt a tad more fanciful – but deals with difficult and important issues such as suicide, sexuality and complex family situations. And in the end it’s hard to work out the ‘goodies’ from the ‘baddies’. In fact, it’s an important reminder that life’s not that cut and dried.

Comparisons aside, I very much enjoyed this novel by Wasserman think that it will appeal to a broad audience, but particularly young people.

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman released in Australia by Hachette on 5 May 2016.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

Am I the only one who struggles with the comparison trap when they read similar books?


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