Reading Girls on Fire was like being sucked back in time through a swirling vortex of op shop petticoat dresses, faux fur coats, grunge t shirts, Chanel Noir nail polish and shrunken tees with old man suit pants. Of Workshop skirts and discarded Holiday T’s. Hidden seventh form blazers and squeaky clean class pictures. Of clothes that matched. Ironic hats. Of things that were ironed. Of the schoolgirl you were being drowned by the woman you would be.
And that’s exactly where we meet Hannah Dexter and Lacy Champlain – on the cusp of the rest of their lives. Hannah is in the last year of high school in Nowheresville and Lacy is the new kid in town preaching the Gospel of Grunge and offering the Communion of Cobain. She’s the weirdo, the odd one out and she doesn’t care.
Lacy and Hannah become a gang of 2. Hannah is no longer invisible. She’s Dex. A person. She can see. She can be seen. She has a friend she can rely on no matter what. But Lacy has secrets and she’s not as reliable as Dex thinks.
When one of the coolest kids at school blows his brains out on Halloween, suburban paradise goes into satanic panic. Are there devil worshippers afoot? Who or what is leading the youth astray?
As a small town looks long and hard for any signs of corruption from the outside, Dex starts to realise that maybe the kid’s aren’t alright. Maybe they never have been, maybe they’ve had the devil in them all along.
At times cruel and dangerous, always intoxicating, Girls on Fire rings true on many levels, capturing the all-consuming be all end all of peer validation that takes place in the mid- to late-teens. (I know you can remember the name of the bully from your last year at school.) Most of all this books reminds you of what it feels like to be 18, when everything was new, and so much of it stung. Pleasure excitement success anticipation; embarrassment fear envy shame humiliation anger. But you had a best friend with you by your side, to get through those things with you, to share the burn so you were never alone. Best Friends Forever. Blood Sisters. Some bonds can’t be broken. Some things can’t be undone. We were all Dex and Lacy. Some of us still are.
Reviewed by Sarah McMullan @sarahmcmullannz
Girls on Fire
by Robin Wasserman
Published by Little, Brown