Hardcover: 368 pages
Publication date: May 17, 2016
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
Three girls went into the woods; two came out.
It sounds like a joke, or a riddle. But it was only, would ever after be, the rest of our life.
Shortly after Halloween, 1991, the local high-school basketball star is found in the woods near Battle Creek, Pennsylvania, with a bullet in his head and a gun in his hand—a discovery that sends tremors through this conservative community, already unnerved by growing rumors of satanic worship in the region.
In the wake of this incident, bright but lonely Hannah Dexter is befriended by Lacey Champlain, a dark-eyed, Cobain-worshipping bad influence. Lacey forges a fast, intimate bond with the impressionable Dex, making her over in her own image—and unleashing a fierce defiance with unexpected and harrowing consequences. By turns a shocking story of love and violence and an addictive portrait of the intoxication of female friendship, Girls on Fire is an incendiary and unforgettable snapshot of girlhood: girls lost and found, girls weak and strong, girls who burn bright and brighter—and girls who flicker away.
When I first read the premise of Girls on Fire, I was intrigued and wanted to read the book. I haven't read any of Wasserman's YA novels, so I really had no idea what her writing style was like or the type of novels she writes and had no specific expectations from the novel.
I liked Hannah/Dex's voice - she is probably the character/voice that many readers will relate to the most. She is the quiet, unhappy loner that no one really notices. As with many teens, she is unhappy about herself and her social life but has what could be considered a normal, boring family who have good intentions. Whether her parents are actually good parents can be debated, but there wasn't abuse. The way Hannah/Dex changes due to Lacey's influence is troubling and brings up so many questions about her relationship with Lacey.
Lacey is the rebel - the troubled girl - the one who causes parents - or most parents - to pause and question their children about their activities. Lacey has a dysfunctional home life - to put it lightly. In fact, her stepfather is a monster and at times seems almost a caricature of the horrible stepfather. I realize that the character needs a catalyst for her troubled behavior, but some of the circumstances seemed a bit over the top. At any rate, Lacey is definitely the more troubled of the two.
I think the aspect of the novel that I found the most interesting was the twisted relationship between Lacey and Nikki and between Nikki and Hannah/Dex and how Lacey's relationship with Hannah/Dex is caused by and affected by Nikki. Nikki is the stereotypical beautiful cheerleader whose sole purpose is to be popular, beautiful and to torture everyone else. There is a fairly in depth study of the way teenage girls play twisted games and test their power with other girls. The whole thing is messed up.
I was interested in what had caused the death that starts the novel, but I had a pretty good idea fairly early into the novel -- except that when it was finally revealed, it was just kind of weird and almost silly. Still deadly, but I was kind of disappointed in the actual event. I did, however, appreciate parts of how the book ended. It was dark and haunting and fitting for the people involved.
Girls on Fire is a dark, fraught tale of how intense and highly emotional relationships can twist and distort the lives of these teens and the repercussions of some really awful decisions. There were aspects to the novel that didn't work for me, but overall, it was basically the story of a parents worst nightmare and I was compelled to continue reading to the very dark end of the novel. I found the psychological aspects of the relationships very interesting, if deeply troubling. If you like dark, angry, emotional stories about the angst-filled teen years, then Girls on Fire may be just what you want to read.
About Robin WassermanRobin Wasserman is a graduate of Harvard University and the author of several successful novels for young adults. A recent recipient of a MacDowell fellowship, she lives in Brooklyn, New York. Girls on Fire is her first novel for adults.
Find out more about Robin at her website and connect with her on Twitter.
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