Review: Girls On Fire by Robin Wasserman

“This is not a cautionary tale about too much – or the wrong kind – of fucking. This is not a story of bad things happening to bad girls. I say this because I know you, Dex, and I know how you think.

I am going to tell you a story, and this time, it will be the truth.”

This book takes you on a journey though the lives of teenagers Nikki, Hannah, Lacey and Craig, four ordinary school kids who get caught in the middle of Lacey’s dangerous game to have Dex all to herself. Hannah is the loner in school who is bullied by star child Nikki, up until she meets and becomes friends with Lacey. Together, they weave a web of lies so complex that even the reader has difficulty keeping up.

90s grunge

It is set in the early 90s (1991) when the grunge scene and Kurt Cobain rule. Lacey herself is so in love with Kurt she feels lost without him and is very heavily influenced by his music. She sees Nikki giving Hannah a hard time in school and so she takes the frightened duckling under her wing and into her dark Satanic world. She moulds Hannah into becoming the harder, grungier Dex who wears flannel shirts, doc martens and answers back to her parents. Together they meet at the lake, listen to Kurt Cobain CDs and drink vodka. The more time these two spend together, the further Dex falls under Lacey’s spell. Then one night changes the way Dex sees Lacey, and even Nikki – and it’s one which will change their lives forever.

On Halloween night, Nikki’s boyfriend takes a gun into the woods and shoots himself. At first we believe it to be a suicide, which ripples through the conservative town already unnerved by the rumour of Satanic worship. It sets off a chain reaction which no-one, especially Hannah, ever saw coming. She is totally blind-sided by her love for Lacey, caught up in their web of love, lies, sex, loyalty and betrayal, they believe themselves to be invulnerable.

The morning after the night before

Until one night changes everything. It ends with Dex waking up, covered in bruises, wearing less clothes than she began the night in, and with a memory so foggy she’s convinced herself nothing untoward could have happened. 

Dex wakes up the morning after the night before and straight into being the last person at the party in an abandoned house. She mentally detaches herself from the truth of what happened that night, choosing to forget and hide away in her room. Lacey is gone, everyone at school knows what happened, and Dex is left feeling adrift from reality, from everything she has come to know to be real. How can she carry on when the one person she trusted most to be there for her, isn’t? But that’s only the beginning of the story, as the worst may well be yet to come…

It is a hard-hitting, abrasive and unapologetic look at growing up grunge in the early 90s. It features Satanic worship, an unhealthy obsession with Kurt Cobain and the all-consuming kind of love which sees our characters cross lines no rational person ever would. Strap yourself in and hold on tight, you’re in for the ride of your life! 

As the story unfolds and you are taken into Nikki and Lacey’s complex relationship, you began to realise just how poisonous having a person like Lacey in your life can really be. 

Shock factor fiction

Girls on Fire is a truly a thrill ride through adolescent life in the ’90s, you are whisked along at full throttle with no care for who gets hurt in the aftermath. It is abrasive, shock factor fiction which takes no prisoners and offers no apology.

It leaves you with a good few raw wounds, but they’re worth every second. Best read under the covers at night-time, it’s a harsh look at the youth of yesterday and just how all-consuming love can be.

Kettle rating: 10/10

Have you read the book? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!