The Burning Girl

256p. Norton. Aug. 2017. Tr $25.95. ISBN 9780393635027.
In Julia's first memory of her best friend, Cassie is standing in the middle of their preschool playground, looking like a sprite with her shiny white hair and tiny stature. From that moment on, they belong to each other. Fast-forward through years of imaginative games and adventures to the summer before seventh grade. That summer a pit bull shreds Cassie's arm, necessitating a visit to Dr. Anders Shute, who comes to play a terrible role in the girl's life. That same summer the girls discover Bonnybrook, an abandoned asylum for women. But seventh grade brings change. Cassie finds a new, wilder friend, and the girls grow apart. Julia, whose life is filled with opportunity, attempts to reconstruct the series of events that led to Cassie's ultimate tragedy, relying on hearsay and her presumption that she can still intuit her friend's thoughts and emotions. From Julia's perspective, Cassie is surrounded by danger: men driving cars in the dark, boys piling into bathrooms at parties, and the creepy Anders Shute, who married Cassie's mother. Teens who love novels taut with psychological tension will be intrigued by Cassie's downward spiral and Julia's curious role as storyteller. Much more than a tale of friendship gone awry, this dark work explores the roles we accept, those we reject, and those we thrust upon others.
VERDICT A gripping coming-of-age narrative that will appeal to fans of Emma Cline's The Girls or Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You.

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