ARC Book Review: Girls On Fire by Robin Wasserman


ashley |  Any book that starts off with a Kurt Cobain quote is going to speak to me. Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman did just that; it started off strong and raw and powerful and it burned just as fiery red hot all the way through.

Teenage girls. I don’t think you can ever fully understand the complex, cruel, complicated mess of hormones and thoughts and insecurities that make up a teenage girl unless you were one. Not are one, even living through it I don’t think you can fully understand the power and danger and hugeness of it all, it’s more something you see when you look back on it. There’s been few things over the years that I thought represented this existence in the rawest, most real way possible. The book Go Ask Alice was one, the movie Thirteen was another.

I’d add Girls on Fire to this list as well. It isn’t necessarily new, the idea of a good girl falling in with a bad girl and completely transforming and losing herself isn’t new, but it’s important. The messages and the descriptions and the warnings are important. And there were some really great passages that talk about the obsessions between girls, the cruelty and power that they don’t know they have, and my favourite, a contemplative chapter about whether instead of telling girls to be careful because they are vulnerable and weak and will be taken advantage of, teach them how powerful and dangerous their actions can be. I thought this had some really good points to think about and to touch on.

That said, there was a lot of repetition and back and forth between characters that felt a bit like beating a dead horse. The direction you were being lead wasn’t hard to see, and yet you were still dragged along for a long while before ever really going anywhere. If you read a lot of books like this, I could see how maybe the intensity and impact of it all might not have the same bang. But nonetheless, there was still a lot of heat that I think burned pretty deep.

The book took a much darker turn towards the end. Satanism was brought into it; things kind of seemed more like a witch hunt for a while and it went to some very deep extremes. Things definitely go pretty far and screamed out a thousand warnings about the dangers of lies and secrets and that kind of power.  But I liked how it ended. The book was so loud and blunt throughout it, it would be a disservice to have a pretty little ending where people learned their lesson and everyone lived happily ever after. The way it does end I think shows even further the complexities of female friendships and the thin line between friends and enemies.

I’m going to try really hard not to turn this into a OMG-Lacey-Loves-Kurt-Cobain-As-Much-As-I-Do-We-Must-Be-Soulmates kind of review, but OMG, Lacey loves Kurt Cobain as much as I do and the way she talks about him, how his music changed her life, how his voice consumed her, I could be reading my own high school diary. They’re dangerously similar, her thoughts, her teenage obsessions. It’s so eerie reading about a character that so very much mimics how you perceive yourself.

Yet at the same time, I see myself so much in Dex, too. I certainly wasn’t as cool as Lacey and while I may have harboured her teenage angst and praised the same grunge gods, I was much more timid and insecure and uncertain like Dex was, searching aimlessly for something to connect to, someone to open my eyes to what else is out there.

Again, I’m going to try really hard not to turn this into a nostalgic analysis of my teenage years, but this is why I love books like this. Two characters who speak to two different sides of girls, giving us something solid to relate to, something tangible to watch through these safe pages and see how things work out for them, how was can make similar or difference choices to get us through whatever needs getting through. Even what, 15 years after my teenage prime, I can still so strongly relate to these themes and fears and remember exactly what those moments felt like and the names of the girls who made me feel little, the names of the boys who made me feel even smaller. Those are the kind of burns that never fade away.


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today! may 17, 2016

copy provided for honest review by