Review: Girls on Fire

Girls on Fire

by Robin Wasserman  

Reviewed by Judith Reveal | Released: May 16, 2016

Publisher: Harper (368 pages)

ANGST and DISPAIR, in all caps, are clearly the basis for Robin Wasserman’s latest novel, Girls on Fire. Add three teenage girls, Hannah Dexter, Lacey Chaplain, and Nikki Drummond; mix in parents with the collective parenting skills of a gnat; toss in a pinch of satanic worship and a pinch of a teenage boy’s suicide, and you have the makings of a page turner.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Hannah Dexter, by all accounts is a teenager on the edge, when she is humiliated by Nikki Drummond – Miss popularity. Hannah is befriended by Lacey Champlain, a girl who dabbles in Goth, and knows more than she should about most things ‘Nikki.’ Hannah is absorbed in Lacey’s life style and is reformed as “Dex.” Dex engages in her new life, much to the chagrin of her mother and the amusement of her father.

Through the first half of the story, Lacey nurtures a hatred for Nikki and ingrains it into Dex’s psyche. Lacey tells Dex of her previous relationship with Nikki, and how her hatred of this girl grew.

Midway through the story, Dex and Lacey agree to attend a party in a house under foreclosure, and Lacey does not show up. Dex throws herself into the fray of too-much-partying, with disastrous results. Unknown to Dex, Lacey’s mother and stepfather have committed her to “Horizons” – a religious cult camp where the rules are, at best, draconian.

During this period, Nikki – the girl to be hated by both Dex and Lacey, befriends Dex and pulls her gradually back into the world of Hannah.

Two underlying issues exist throughout the story – the suicide death of Craig, Nikki’s boyfriend, and the satanic practices of the children of Battle Creek. The question of Craig’s death rises more closely to the surface as the book progresses – the issue of satanic practices is passed over but never rises to any important place in the story. 

This book review was prepared for the New York Journal of Books and is reprinted with their permission. Please visit their website: for a complete listing of book reviews.

Reviewer: Judy Reveal lives in Maryland. She is the author of Around Greensboro and the Lindsey Gale Mystery series including Cheating Death, The Music Room, A House to Kill For, and historical fiction (2013) The Brownstone.

© Roy Bartels 2012