Review: The Burning Girl by Claire Messud

Title: The Burning Girl

Author: Claire Messud

Pages: 247 Pages

Publisher: Little Brown

The Blurb

Julia Robinson and Cassie Burnes have been friends since nursery school. They have shared everything, including their desire to escape the stifling limitations of their birthplace, the quiet town of Royston, Massachusetts. But as the two girls enter adolescence, their paths diverge: while Julia comes from a stable, happy, middle-class family, Cassie never knew her father, who died when she was an infant, and has an increasingly tempestuous relationship with her single mother, Bev.

When Bev becomes involved with the mysterious Anders Shute, Cassie feels cruelly abandoned. Disturbed, angry and desperate for answers, she sets out on a journey that will put her own life in danger, and shatter her oldest friendship.

Compact, compelling, and ferociously sad, The Burning Girl is at once a story about childhood, friendship and community, and a complex examination of the stories we tell ourselves about childhood and friendship. Claire Messud brilliantly mixes folklore and Bildungsroman, exploring the ways in which our made-up stories, and their consequences, become real.

The Review

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud is a complex YA novel about the mercurial nature of friendship – especially for those who are growing up. The story follows Julia and Cassie as we watch their friendship gain momentum and gradually fall apart.

With the hindsight of adulthood, it is easy to see that friendships evolve and some burn out naturally, others implode in big drama but not matter what age it happens it still hurts. I really felt for the character of Julia – she felt so lost without her best friend, her constant. I have been in that situation so it was easy to empathise. Equally, it was easy to see the frailty of their relationship – things that maybe shouldn’t be an issue but sometimes can be such as socioeconomic situations or lack of strong role models.

I will admit that at times I did find the narrative of The Burning Girl a little slow paced but overall the story was well written.

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud is available now.

For more information regarding Little Brown (@LittleBrownUK) please visit

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