Girls On Fire - #Review

Monday, 11 July 2016

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 teenage adolescence, which is so far removed from the traditional you're left wondering if you did it right?! It tells the story of 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, even the reader has difficulty keeping up.

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 their lake, listening to Kurt Cobain CDs and drinking vodka. The more time these two spend together, the further Dex falls under Lacey's spell. One night among many changes the way Dex sees Lacey and even Nikki, 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 sees coming. She is totally blind sided by love for Lacey, caught up in their web of love, lies, sex, loyalty and betrayal they believe themselves to be invulnerable.
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.

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

Dex wakes up the morning after the party and finds herself to be the last person there. With no memory of what happened, she calls herself “the girl on the other side of the night, the girl I was now; The girl who'd torn off her shirt and danced on a table. The girl who'd grabbed bulges through jeans and moaned filthy things, who said dick and pussy..”
She mentally detaches herself from that night, choosing to forget and hide away in her room. Lacey is gone, everyone at school knows what happened on that night 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, just left??

With Lacey gone, Nikki becomes what Dex thinks, to be a trusted friend. Allowing Dex to shrug off her old persona and become Hannah once again. As the months pass, Hannah begins to blossom and starts to forget about Lacey and everything she was before. But one off the cuff invitation to visit Nikki changes everything and once again Hannah is left wondering who she can trust. As Hannah's memory of 'the night' is foggy, she is shocked to see a video of herself performing sex acts being played on the TV when she turns up at Nikki's. It is clear it has been played before as Nikki and the other girls seem to know all the words and what happens next.

After feeling abandoned by Lacey and all but hating her, it is a shock when a few months later she turns up at Hannah's house like nothing ever happened. It could not be further from the truth, as she was in fact at a Jesus Camp called 'Horizons' after being sent there by 'The Bastard' stepfather. She works the system for a while and manages to get released early and the only person she wants to see is 'her Dex.'
Dex has only questions and Lacey isn't offering any answers. Only on Halloween Night, a year on from Craig's (Nikki's boyfriend) suicide, is the truth finally revealed.

'Girls on Fire' is a thrill ride through 90's adolescence, taken at full throttle, with no eyes on the road and a foot only on the gas. It is abrasive, shock factor fiction which takes no prisoners and offers no apology. It is a wound left raw. Best read under the covers at night. It is a harsh look at the youth of yesterday and just how all consuming love can be. 10/10.

Love, Sarah

*(First seen on Kettle Mag -*

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