I don’t even know where to begin with Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman. I had it on my ‘2016 list’ so when I found it on NetGalley I was pressing the request button on repeat until I was accepted. I came away truly burnt – it’s a book I won’t forget.
“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…
Starting – and ending – with tragedy, Girls on Fire stands alongside The Virgin Suicides in its brilliant portrayal of female adolescence, but with a power and assurance all its own.”
It’s one of those novels you just need to go and read for yourself, because I can’t explain its brilliance in a review. It was dark, it was twisted, it was incredibly gripping and absorbing. I still don’t know how I feel, but in a good way. The story wraps around you, engulfing you in the characters, trying to understand them and to find the truth. The writing is A**** incredible, the perfect amount of vague allusion, the brilliance of ‘showing’ instead of ‘telling’ and leaving the reader to make up your own mind about the characters and what is really going on.
The plot lines weave fantastically – the story of Craig and what happened interspersed between the story of Dex & Lacey, as well as Nikki and their relationships with their own families. I can’t tell you too much about the plot – I want you to learn it for yourself but it’s a brilliant story of Hannah/Dex’s self-discovery, Lacey’s complicated personality and horrific home-life and of course, the romance that joins all of the characters together. There’s so much going on, without it explicitly being said and I still can’t decide which characters I like, and which I don’t, though I’m pretty sure I don’t like Nikki. It’s a fantastic exploration of lonely, lost young females and the destruction their emotions can cause on such an extreme level. It shows how powerful love, or even obsession, is, as well as the battle between your real self and your conscience.
Even as I write, I’m thinking of new aspects of the book worth mentioning or thinking about, there’s so much going on on different levels and it’s a book that makes you think, long after you’ve put it down with characters that resonate and confuse you. The twists are shocking, the mystery palpable and the unsaid, is far more powerful than what Robin has actually written.
I got to the end of the book with the same reaction I did when I first read Gone Girl (or anything by Gillian Flynn really), thinking ‘what the eff did I just read?’ and I feel like I need to go back and read it all over again to really appreciate how expertly thought out Robin’s characters are – even when they seem all over the place. It’s a masterpiece of a novel, as dark as they come, but beautiful, perfectly crafted writing, such complex, interesting and disturbing characters and a fantastic ending which leaves you feeling chills on the back of your neck.
Completely compelling – make sure you buy it, it’s bound to be one of my best this year. It’s out 5th May from Little, Brown.