Thursday, July 28, 2016

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman Review

Title: Girls On Fire: A Novel
Author: Robin Wasserman
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I've read a lot of Robin Wasserman's young adult work, most notably the first two novels in her Skinned trilogy. I've been looking forward to more of her work ever since. Ever since I'd heard of the existence of Girls on Fire, I've been salivating for it. I was really looking forward to it, and I enjoyed it, for the most part. But there were also some things I weren't crazy about, so my feelings are mixed.

Girls on Fire is a twisting and magnetic mystery/thriller wrapped in a coming of age story wrapped in one of the most twisted love stories I've ever come across. It is the story of Lacey Champlain and Hannah 'Dex' Dexter, two volatile and uncertain young women who find in each other in little, podunk Battle Creek, and cannot live without each other. When dark secrets come to light, the two young women must decide if their relationship is worth paying the ultimate price...

Told in prose as electric as this sleepaway hit's title, the girls become intoxicated by one another, alternately loving and betraying as they see fit. I was captivated, as I always am, by Wasserman's bright and electric prose. Through Dex, we see Lacey, and the little town that she finds so stifling. This book was impossible not to relate to--it really spoke to me. Growing up is hard, and even harder if you happen to be a young woman. In Dex, I saw some of myself--the longing to belong, to be content, to love and be loved--even if it means sacrificing who you are. Lacey, Dex's emotional, wild, I don't give a crap foil, was just as compelling, if not more so. The girls' relationship--deeper than friendship--is so all-consuming that everything around it is destroyed, ripped to tatters by the end of the novel.

I really enjoyed the style of the novel--it was told in a frighteningly stoic voice, from the end to the beginning and back again. This book also tackled one of my favorite topics in fiction, especially contemporary: a toxic friendship. I don't know why it is, but I'm drawn to books about destruction, degeneration. Bonus points if it's personal. The format was fantastic, and by the end, I was frantically flipping pages, desperate to find out what would come of these girls on fire--if they would flare so bright they would eclipse the sun, or if they would flicker and burn out. I was spellbound, almost against my will. Even when I wanted to put it down, I couldn't.

That being said, there were times when I was reading that I was kind of let down--but the ending was worth it, and I'm so glad that I stuck with it. Dex and Lacey were the main characters, the focus, and the characters around them, including their parents, seemed almost like caricatures in comparison to them. Even when they were included more in the story than just supporting characters, they didn't seem real to me. The bottom line: A mystery thriller wrapped in a twisted love and coming of age story in the golden age of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, Girls on Fire was, for the most part, mesmerizing! Despite the stiffness of the supporting characters, I really enjoyed it. Next on deck: Outrun The Moon by Stacey Lee!

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