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Before the Fire

3.02  ·  Rating details ·  178 ratings  ·  39 reviews
The stunning and timely new novel from Sarah Butler, author of the international sensation Ten Things I've Learnt About Love
It's June 2011. Stick and Mac are a couple of months shy of eighteen; summer's approaching and they're about to leave their north Manchester estate for the beaches of southern Spain.
But the night before they're planning to go, Mac ends up in the wrong
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 12th 2015 by Picador (first published March 1st 2015)
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Average rating 3.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  178 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Mar 01, 2015 rated it did not like it
See more reviews at YA Midnight Reads

Awwwww look at that one star and how lonely it looks…


I don’t ask for much in order for me to like a book. Mostly, I just want a likeable main character. Stick (aka Kieran) was not an enjoyable character. AT ALL. Aside from the bout of swearing that remains plentiful and consistent throughout the novel, his foul and unappreciative attitude towards the people around him seriously made me want to screech. I mean, how
Mar 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Before The Fire was inspired by the UK riots of 2011, and the story takes place over the months just prior to the riots in August of that year.

There were a variety of responses to the riots that summer. In Parliament, David Cameron said: The whole country has been shocked by the most appalling scenes of people looting, violence, vandalising and thieving. It is criminality, pure and simple - and there is absolutely no excuse for it.

Whilst in the Guardian, Seumas Milne wrote: While bankers have p
Kelly (Diva Booknerd)
As readers, we want to be immersed in a storyline, we want to feel a connection to it's characters and invest in their plight. I was torn between the fascination that was Stick, otherwise known as Kieren, and wanting to smack him about with a shovel. His behavior made me cringe, but more importantly, Kieren made me feel, even if it was disgust. He's confronting, abrasive and crass. I loathed him, even before the incident. If your aspirations narrow down to
Apr 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I found this a fast-paced read, with a captivating modern storyline and content. Entirely believable and realistic. I enjoyed the characters and their dilemmas and felt the author had a very good understanding and portrayal of the different people in the book particularly young people with apparently dead-end lives in dead-end northern England estates.

I've read the other reviews on here and am disappointed that people dislike the book because of the swearing in the dialogue. That is how people a
Feb 14, 2019 rated it did not like it
What was this bullshit? Why did I waste 3 days reading this?
Stick is an idiot, J is just unnecessary.
I loved Alan and the ganny. I only cared about them. End of story.
‘Before the Fire’ wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. I’d read other reviews before reading it, as it’s one that’s been out for a while now but I’ve not really seen anyone talking about (which isn’t in itself an indication it could be awful, but I’ve read a fair few awful Netgalley books now and dislike wasting my time). Other reviews mostly complain about the unlikable main character, and I thought, well, I find unlikable people pretty interesting, and read it anyway.

It’s certainly not a book
Mel Vdk
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is interesting to read reviews here saying they want a likeable character , so they did not enjoy this because Stick was not...... Hmmmmm he is a teenage boy who loses a do not read if you like fluff.And Stick is going to be fine.... I loved this book, with dirt poor Manchester as a back drop and the riots looming it was an uneasy setting with unsettled characters.
All I will say is Stick becomes more likeable and Sarah Butler is such a flipping great writer. I fell hook line and si
Jan 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was something of a disappointment, but I think that's because it was missold. I expected an insight into the 2011 riots, which barely impinged on my life (though I was living in London at the time) and which I had all but forgotten about. The author is an expert on the subject, having written her dissertation on "narratives of the riots of 2011", but the book is not really about them: they're a backdrop to the main action.

[mild spoilers]

The book begins, as it ends, with an image of it
Shruti Terdalkar
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It doesn’t have a beginning or an ending, but more importantly, the story line has a phase and a character. Book is character centric, with Stick aka Kieran in the lead, shy of 18, who happens to be a foul, full of angst person who you may think is a felon in making. Stick chooses all the abominable ways to get over his mate’s sudden demise. He runs into J, leans on her as a replacement to his lost best friend. J being a not so good influence, but then that is the reason he confides in her. Stic ...more
Stef Rozitis
So this was in the main a victim narrative on behalf of participants in toxic masculinity (and did that problematic thing of making it cool and attractive and understandable to be that way-reifying, failing to problematise the real issue, instead making it seem like lack of empowerment was the real issue).

The turning point was one of those "individual responsibility" realisations that people need to "put themselves out there" and be self-determining and then good things are possible (and girls w
Jun 10, 2018 rated it liked it
A quick read, but not a fully satisfying one. There wasn't enough character development for my liking and the dénouement was rushed. I kept thinking there would be more to the story than there was. The pacing is good and the reader does get a good feel for life on an estate in Manchester, but it could have done with an extra 40 pages or so. ...more
Feb 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Started with promise, but ended almost as if the author had tired of her characters and wanted to bet away, seems to be a trend in some books build up a scenario, then resolve in a few words. Ultimately a disappointing experience for me.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Grief, northern working-class masculinity, the 2011 riots. Not the kind of thing I usually read, but well done.
Apr 11, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Iain Every
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and moving story with wonderful relatable characters
Maya ☂️
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
well it was a dnf.

I started it a while ago and then i started it again.. if you don't finish a book 2 times i think its a sign. Definitely did not like it,definitely do not recommend.
I’m usually a little wary about unsolicited review copies. Mainly because, like most readers, I have a pretty strong sense of what works for me in a book. At first glance, Before the Fire was different. It sounded like just my sort of read. Contemporary? Check. Gritty UK setting, complete with the London riots? Check. But the more I think about Before the Fire, the more disappointed I am.

The first hiccup in my enjoyment of Before the Fire was Stick’s atrocious personality. But I kept ploughing t
Sue Hampton
May 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Before the Fire by Sarah Butler
I read Sarah Butler’s debut, Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love, because I met her briefly and by accident – and consider it one of the best novels I’ve read in recent years. On the strength of it, I bought Before the Fire – and I’m glad I did. As an author who explores different genres myself, I appreciate Butler’s courage in delivering with this second novel something ‘other’, rather than a variation – especially in the context of the pressure often applied for co
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Set in the lead up to the London riots of 2011, Before the Fire is an intelligent and believable coming of age story about an eighteen year old boy who is grieving for his best mate. Kieran, better known by his nickname, Stick, believes that his life is finally starting to take a turn for the better. He has suffered a few traumas during his childhood--the death of his sister and his parents divorcing soon after. Stick lives with his mum, who has OCD and who is reluctant to admit that there is a ...more
Chris Lines
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Before the Fire by Sarah Butler projects itself as a novel about a boy struggling with grief who falls in love with a girl during the 2011 London Riots. What Before the Fire is really about though, is a boy so overcome with anger and a stinging bitterness towards society that those around him are all left feeling alienated. Just as I felt alienated when reading the story about our main character Stick who loses his best friend in awful circumstances early on in the book and is left to navigate a ...more
Jun 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Adults; Teenagers
Finished reading: “Before the Fire” / Sarah Butler. 03 June 2015
ISBN: 9781447252153
Borrowed from the local library.

I really enjoyed this book. The time is just before the English riots of 2011 that started in London and spread across the country. The story focuses on Stick (known to his family as Kieran), an almost 18 year old about to set off on a road trip to Malaga with his best mate, before fate intervenes. The characters and situations are all entirely believable. It is a story of loss, gri
Anne Goodwin
Nov 03, 2015 rated it liked it
June 2011 and Stick and Mac are ablaze with the promise of adventure. Just finished school, they’ve bought a wreck of a car and are planning to drive from Manchester to Malaga, where beaches, girls and a washing-up job in a bar await them. But, the night before they’re due to leave, a random knife-attack puts a stop to that. Mac is dead and Stick’s going nowhere. Bereft and stunned, his family’s attempt to console him only fuel his anger and the limitations of the law are like a slap in the face ...more
Funny reading a book that references events I remember. Except I don't exactly remember the 2011 riots because I wasn't in London at the time, I was living on a heritage sailing boat on the Norfolk Broads and my only contact with the outside world was (a) my friend Jacob's hyperbolic texts that made me think the world was ending and (b) a copy of either the Sun or the Daily Mail, I don't remember which, so I was understandably concerned. But still. It was a thing. An event. A recent one, but lon ...more
Aug 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
If I had a dollar for every time I judged a book by its cover, I'd be filthy rich.

I can't lie, the cover looked pretty great. The blurb sounded fairly interesting and thought I'd give it a try. Sad to say, I dragged the book on for at least four months. I could find a reason or the energy to get me hooked on Before the Fire. It was poorly constructed writing with an unlikable character. I didn't feel the sympathy I needed to feel for him. There wasn't a strong enough reason to compromise the ma
charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)
Rep: Ghanaian characters

im so sad about this book :(

(a couple of little issues i had with it: how it decided to incorporate the riots at the end - i didnt think that was entirely necessary, but it didnt change my rating, it was always going to be a 2 star book; how it referred to some characters accent as "african" having previously said he was ghanaian, thats just lazy)
Karen Angelico
Apr 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Gritty, raw, a penetrating coming of age story that beautifully captures anger, grief and social unrest. Sarah Butler's debut novel (ten things I love about you) was great and this is a fantastic second novel. She writes with a stripped back rawness that reaches the pith and core of emotion. I look forward to her next novel.
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story about grief embedded in Manchester that cleverly sets you up to think that they protagonist is going to do something stupid in the 2011 riots, but then pulls things back to such a personal level that you feel like you can no longer predict anything. About family and coping, or not, and romance and growing up. Heart-achey and down to earth.
Jemma (Aussie BookWorm)
Feb 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs
An intriguing book with a darkness that is death. For my full review check out my BookBlog: ...more
Jun 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Really quick read, depressing, but good.
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book. The characters all felt real and 3D and the grief was tangible. Would definitely recommend.
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