Hannah was never part of any group. Never popular. Never one of the bright and shiny girls everyone wanted to be friends with. And that was ok.
But then Lacey came into her life. Lacey opened her eyes. Lacey dubbed her Dex and made everything different. Dex was wild and unafraid. Dex was who Hannah could never have imagined being but, once changed, could never leave behind. Their friendship changed them both, and, in the time of Kurt Cobain and satanism scares, not necessarily for the better.
Oh, my. I'm not even quite sure how to react to this one. It's all at once a bit of a mean and nasty book, a scary book, and a bleak book. I wonder if it's supposed to, as one of the characters notes, make mothers afraid of raising daughters!
There's no way to read Girls on Fire, as a girl that is, and not consider your own teen years. I knew girls like Dex, Lacey, and even Nikki. I wasn't one of them. Thankfully.
I'd describe Dex and Lacey's friendship as a toxic one. Hannah/Dex is a follower. She seems to rely on cues around her to determine who she is and who she wants to be. She allows Lacey to mold her into what Lacey wants, and latches onto it full force. But when she feels betrayed and abandoned by Lacey, Hannah/Dex becomes unmoored. Hannah has no strength or backbone.
In spite of the narrative, I find it hard to believe that Lacey is actually friends with Hannah. I think Hannah is a pawn, even as the story progresses and comes to its dark and inevitable close. Lacey is broken, a girl even Hannah's parents seem to believe has some redeeming qualities, but one who is shaped by her surroundings and left to flounder. And under the influence of the weird happenings of the 90s (remember this is the time when everything from heavy metal to horror movies was accused of turning teens into rampant and avid devil worshippers) Lacey becomes a festering ball of hot hatred.
I didn't really like Girls on Fire. It's just a little too everything for my taste. Most of all, it's a bit too real. As I said, I knew girls like this. I knew girls like Hannah who would follow any strong personality that paid attention to them. I knew girls like Lacey who would take advantage of girls like Hannah. And it's not too hard to imagine that some of the people I knew could have, under the right circumstances, had a story that played out as Hannah's and Lacey's does. And it's kind of terrifying.
That Wasserman captures that, is kind of amazing. But Girls on Fire is not going to be a book that hits high notes with every reader. In fact, I think it's a book that should come with a caution sticker: the writing is great, the story is ugly, enter at your own risk.
To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.