Gripping story. Sick. Shocking.
Girls on Fire tells a story about teenage girl Hannah Dexter who finds herself engaged in hatred of two school enemies; Kurt Cobain's fan Lacey, and school sweetheart Nikki. Hannah tries to define who she really is while being manipulated by seemingly two completely different girls. Girls who desperately need to keep their terrifying secret untold.
The whole story brings up that thrilling feeling of being on a roller-coaster. The enjoyment of the slow, lengthy movement when it drives you up to the top, to the climax. And then the sensation when it rushes you down the hill so quickly that you can't catch your breath. Because that's exactly how it feels when you read Robin Wasserman's first novel for adults. Although the story opens up with a shocking suicide of a boy in the middle of a local dark forest, nothing else happens for the next one hundred pages. The book slowly builds up its tension, page by page. It is Robin Wasserman's captivating use of language which makes her reader to keep reading. Wasserman precisely depicts speaking manners of teenagers, throwing on her reader words such as 'cunt' or 'fuck' on basically every other page. She is not afraid to go to details when describing sexual scenes or Lacey's alcoholic mother and her struggle with bringing up children. These details help to build up the sense of authenticity, no matter how much the whole story seems to be unreal.
'What's tragic is trying to fuck yourself into forgetting you're a miserable bitch.'
Girls on Fire, page 37
As a book usually has only one climax, in this case Girls on Fire comes up with more than two. Wasserman abandons her heroine in a dangerous company of two much stronger and more independent characters of the book, Lacey and Nikki, who both play with the heroine like with a mouse. Interestingly, the book offers to its reader more than one (always female) narrator, which attracts reader's attention and, more importantly, it adds different points of views. From Hannah/Dex, to Lacey, and both their mothers, by jumping among individual narrators the story increases the tension with an effortless ease. This is even more enhanced by the use of foreshadowing and traveling back and forth in the course of time of the whole story. Hence, the reader subconsciously knows right from the beginning that the book can not end up with a peace agreement among girls and doing their nails instead of planning revenge. As the story goes on, it becomes more and more obvious that it is going to have a gloomy ending, as it has the bleak beginning.
Robin Wasserman is not afraid to get in sticky, sweet and sweaty details. Her down-to-earth approach to the whole book is what it makes it so reliable. As it might seem that the first part of the book is painfully prolonged, the final chapters easily make up for it. In her book, Girls on Fire, Robin Wasserman deals with female adolescence. She describes it with such details that it even seems like she witnessed it in real life. Wasserman never slows down and her narration pulls the reader right in to the middle of the story. And it drags him until the final page where it finally spits him out. Marked forever.