Review: Girls on Fire #WeekofReviews

Girls on Fire, Robin Wasserman

Published May 17th 2016 by Harper

Hardcover, 368 pages


Girls on Fire tells the story of Hannah and Lacey and their obsessive teenage female friendship so passionately violent it bloodies the very sunset its protagonists insist on riding into, together, at any cost. Opening with a suicide whose aftermath brings good girl Hannah together with the town’s bad girl, Lacey, the two 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..

Let me just say, I’m among a few black sheep on this book.  I saw Michelle at That’s What She Read raving about this story of unhealthy high school friendships in the 90s and I couldn’t wait to pick it up.  As one who had my share of unhealthy high school friendships in the 90s I thought this description sounded amazing.  But for me, it just wasn’t.  

It isn’t the writing – I thought that was great.  Something about Hannah and Lacey’s story just went too far for me.  It went from feeling real to just shy of ridiculous.  Yes friendships are that intense as Hannah and Lacey’s was – two girls against the world.  Music can be a lifeline as with Lacey’s beloved Kurt Cobain, drugs are there for experimenting and horrible things happen between teenagers.  But all in all it was just too much for me – the drugs, the perception of satanism, the sex, the violence – too much!

Shannon at River City Reading has this post praising The Girls by Emma Cline and Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe both of which I’m dying to get my hands on.  It sounds like maybe these will give me the look back into the teenage girl that I wanted from Girls on Fire.  If I ever get off the library hold list that is!

Thank you Harper and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

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  1. I tend to steer clear of these kinds of books…not because I don’t find them affecting…but my God, I hated high school. I think that’s why I go into anything like this with a modicum of doubt. Sounds like this one crossed a line into silliness (I can only imagine), so if I jump on the bandwagon I’ll opt for the ones you mentioned from Shannon’s blog instead. Thanks for the thoughtful review, Amanda!

  2. I was pitched this book by the publicist and declined because I kind of worried it would veer into the “too much” territory. From interviews I’ve read with the author, it sounds like she was reacting against the tendency to make female characters “likeable” and steer away from their feelings of rage. But maybe she overcorrected and veered into silliness? Tricky to navigate!

  3. I am sorry you didn’t like this one as much as I did. I guess I didn’t find it silly at all. Extreme? Yes. Silly? Not a bit. I did find it very angry, and that’s what I liked about it. As for the satanism, I feel that was tongue-in-cheek. After all, the satanism claim was solely the townspeople trying to make sense of the actions of teenagers, as if it was the only way they could understand such behavior.

  4. I’d also suggest trying Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten for another trippy book about a toxic friendship. And if you want to try Wasserman again, The Book of Blood and Shadow is a book that I have come to like more and more over the years.

  5. I’ve seen a handful of people be less than impressed by this one! I just can’t do books that feel inauthentically dark, or like they’re throwing things in for shock value (I’m looking at you, Chuck Palahniuk). Thanks for telling it straight!

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