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The Burning Girl

3.26  ·  Rating details ·  10,663 ratings  ·  1,397 reviews
A bracing, hypnotic coming-of-age story about the bond of best friends, from the New York Times best-selling author of The Emperor’s Children.

Julia and Cassie 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
Hardcover, 247 pages
Published August 29th 2017 by W. W. Norton Company
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Average rating 3.26  · 
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Larry H
Sep 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm between 2.5 and 3 stars, so I'll round up.

The friendships we form when we are younger often have a profound effect on our lives, even into adulthood. And although I can't speak from experience, it's often been said that female friendships, particularly those forged during adolescence and the teenage years, can be tremendously intense, providing special memories and, in some cases, inflicting emotional pain.

Cassie and Julia have been friends for as long as they can remember—since nursery scho
Elyse  Walters
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
"Oh brother"....
"I try to imagine feeling lonely and the way she felt lonely, then. I'm not sure I can do that. I'm a dog and she was a cat: I slobbery and keen; she, self-contained and ultimately private. For so many years it didn't matter; but then she was alone. In her feline nature, and lonely. I should have been able to sense how it was. She was too proud to tell me, or Peter for that matter; and I was too proud and too wounded to look".

Like I said.... "oh brother"! The above excerpt is j
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Life seems to distance even the most solid of friendships.

We all remember the ebb and flow of childhood memories. That friend. That one friend who was so aligned in our thoughts from morning until night and beyond. That person who breathed in every ounce of our persona and kept secrets as still as death.

Julia and Cassie were bonded together since they were very small children living in the town of Royston, Massachusetts. Royston, never highlighted on anyone's travel map, encompassed its communit
Oh, I just ate this up, I wish it had been two, three, four times longer. In lesser hands it could so easily have been a 'so what?' book – two teenage girls fall out, one of them has a more fraught family situation than the other – so what? More than anything else I have read this year, The Burning Girl demonstrates how effortlessly a brilliant writer can elevate tired subject matter.

Of all the books I had on my wishlist for the second half of 2017, The Burning Girl was the one I regarded with t
Dannii Elle
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Claire Messud, and the publisher, Fleet, for this opportunity.

Cassie and Julia were best friends. Past tense. Every one of their memories involved the other, but all that inexplicably changed. A rift formed between the two and neither could exactly place the moment it happened. The distance between them expanded as they grew, until passing greetings and fake smiles in the school corridor summed up the entir
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
2 stars

In hindsight, I should’ve listened more to the reviews from other people about this book. I have read books that have gotten mixed reviews and for the most part, I did like them while there were others I did not like.

However, I was not a fan of The Burning Girl.


When I first heard the premise for The Burning Girl, I was hoping it would be one of those books with a very complicated, if not, toxic friendship. If you guys know me, I am a huge Megan Abbott fan. Her books go well into detail a
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it
The Burning Gil is a novel that never really catches fire. It’s a fable-of-sorts of two young girls – Julia and Cassie – who were once “besties” in Roylton, Massachusetts, and who diverge on different paths as they enter an uncertain adolescence, driven by vastly different expectations.

It is those expectations that shape the destiny of these two girls: “You only see what you expect to see. Your brain lets the rest go.” Cassie, early on, is consigned to the ranks of the disappeared—“all those gir
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2017
I loooove Claire Messud's writing! This short novel is about two girls, Julia and Cassie, who have been best friends since nursery school. As they enter their pre-teen years, the friendship becomes fractured and the girls' paths begin to diverge. The narrator, Julia, is the girl from the stable two-parent home, the good student, the cautious introvert. Cassie is the fragile girl from the wrong side of the tracks, the girl who has a perpetual dark cloud following her every move and who seems to b ...more
Ron Charles
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Claire Messud's slim novel “The Burning Girl” is a kind of teen companion to “The Woman Upstairs,” her 2013 masterpiece about adult female friendship. It's flush with contemplation about the effects of time and class on young people’s lives.

The narrator is a girl named Julia who’s been best friends with Cassie since the beginning. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know her,” Julia explains in the foreboding opening pages. “Both only children, we said that the other was the sister we never h
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
* 4.5 *

It's so so satisfying, finding yourself enjoying a book you never intended to read, by an author you had decided was not for you. Its the joy of expectations surpassed. You feel ashamed of your haughty preconceptions based on friends middling reviews and the inexplicable 3.36 branding. Somewhere around the third paragraph all your resistance is broken down and you spend the entire novel ruminating on why you have never read Claire Messud before now.

The book is in three parts, in an inter
JS is Reading
Apr 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The best book I've read in 2017 so far.

Julie and Cassie have been friends since nursery school and shared everything, but as they enter adolescence, their paths diverge and Cassie sets out on a journey that will put her life in danger and shatter their friendship.

Julie narrates this story, letting you, the reader, know that what she is telling you is a terrible secret. She is desperate to help Cassie even as she pulls away from her, but in trying to save her she may betray her in the most intim
Bonnie Brody
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really anticipated this new novel by Claire Messed. Her last book, 'The Woman Upstairs', was an inimitable character study of two female artists and a horrific act of betrayal. I have found her to be a writer of substance and perspicacity. However, this book didn't live up to my expectations.

Cassie and Julia meet when they are in pre-school and remain very close until junior high, at which time their paths diverge. The novel explores their friendship, especially the very close connection that
Bill Kupersmith
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: me-emma
Set in a quiet town north of Boston, The Burning Girl is a bittersweet story of transition from childhood to adolesence. Cassie & Julia (Juju) have been friends since preschool - by ninth grade they'll be acquaintances. Actually it's not unusual to get a whole bunch of new friends in high school (I did). As I remarked of Megan Abbott's Dare Me, it's a bit odd in mid-teens to have the same BF you had in 2nd grade. Still, I found this such a moving story of a friendship seen from the POV of the on ...more
Kasa Cotugno
"Nobody cares about a happy ending when they care more about the story than the person." Well, I didn't care about either the story or the person by the time this prescient sentence played out. ...more
Liz Barnsley
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Burning Girl is a beautifully written and really engaging coming of age tale, following the ups and downs of the friendship between Julia and Cassie – once inseparable, then peripheral, it is a story of growing up and growing apart.

Told from Julia’s point of view, we meet the girls when they are young, a little wild at times, but utterly joined, neither of them can imagine a time or a life without the other in it. But sometimes nurture tells, Cassie has a very different home and family life
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, first-reads
**I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.**

Some memories have teeth.

People are quick to tell you all about the shock felt when life decides to change in the blink of an eye but fail to mention the burning sting of what the hell happened when you finally realize that life has been running a long con on you the whole damn time. While you were busy worrying over those “shocking” sudden changes, life was busy tweaking this that and the other, until what you know is no longer
This was really quite an exceptional read for me, although it has met some notably mixed reviews. The takeaway point is, this is not a novel for everyone- especially not if you enjoy plot-driven narratives. Messud's novel is thematically coherent and effectively structured. In the words of Messud's narrator Julia this novel is about "what it means to be a girl growing up." Structurally, the three part narrative allows Messud to explore this theme through one adolescent friendship; seeing Cassie ...more
Rae Meadows
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Oh, so very disappointed in this book. I loved Messud's last novel and I think she is a great writer. But this book missed the mark. It's about the friendship between two girls that eventually falls apart but it feels familiar. Better than, say, Girls on Fire, but not at all as good as Ferrante. The Burning Girl felt a little thin, with not much payoff. Messud pushed hard on the theme of stories we tell ourselves but it didn't quite mesh. There is also a very forced plot device (the asylum caret ...more
Rachel Hall
Although prior to reading The Burning Girl I wasn’t aware of Claire Messud’s impressive reputation as a writer, I was intrigued by the huge amount of reviews that appeared for this novel across the literary press and was keen to see if Messud could bring anything fresh to the rather overdone genre of female friendship. Disappointingly, I found The Burning Girl rather a non-event which never came close to the searing coming of age story that I was expecting and for much of the novel I was waiting ...more
Jan 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a sad book.
Vikki Patis
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Girls. They're the subject of choice these days. The Girl On The Train, Girls On Fire, Gone Girl... we seem to be obsessed with the inner workings of girls - or women, as the case may be. But The Burning Girl really is about girls - particularly the friendship between girls, and how utterly complex it can be. As close as sisters, as vicious as enemies, the friendships between girls can be stormy and intense, fulfilling and thrilling.

Cassie is a girl on fire, with a rough home life and a deep de
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Up front, please know that I did not care for Ms. Messud’s last book, The Woman Upstairs. I actually stopped reading when I was three-quarters of the way through, simply didn’t feel the characters to be riveting, and when an earlier book of hers, The Emperor’s Children, was reissued, I passed on it. Then, last week, along came her new one, The Burning Girl. Since it was well-reviewed, I gave it a shot.

The promotional material alluded to the bond of best friends, two girls who clicked in nursery
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Highly readable, The Burning Girl revolved around an adolescent friendship. The fierce intensity and the often transitory nature of such attachments were portrayed in a compelling manner. Key to the plot development was the premise that we tell ourselves lies to justify our actions. Julia and Cassie have been friends since nursery school through the onset of adolescence, despite the contrast in their backgrounds. Then forks in the road appear and different choices are made. As Julia, the narrato ...more
Oct 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
2.5, but raised it to 3 because I loved the first part of the book and her writing. It's unfortunate the story took a turn I didn't care for. Although I have to quibble that the girls seemed to be more like high schoolers than middle schoolers. Please don't tell me drugs and alcohol are present at parties with 12 year olds!! ...more
Crystal King
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: contemporary
Stunning. I would give my eyeteeth to be able to write like Claire Messud. Every word of this book was perfect.
Jun 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018indch, fiction
Julia and Cassie have been friends since preschool but now they've entered the treacherous waters of middle school. The former "secret sisters" are going different ways: Julia is an honors student and Cassie...well, not. As Cassie heads in a dangerous direction, Julia tries to help but no longer understands what their relationship is. Or if they even have one.

I loved Messud's last book, The Woman Upstairs, which I found a powerful story of women and art and the relationships between the women as
Madeline Puckett
Jan 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
It's rare for me to give a 1-star rating, but I truly feel this novel deserved it.

1. It was poorly written

a.) The narrative structure was all over the place. I never understood the timeline/timeframe in this novel. In each "Part", the timing jumps around with no explanation, and for no reason. We have no sense of the age of the narrator/when she is telling the story vs. when it is happening. There were even holes in the description of the timeframe when Cassie went missing, which was confined w
Nov 15, 2017 rated it liked it
In a nutshell, this novel is about a coming of age story about two (former) best friends. The story follows Julia and Cassie as they matriculate through nursery all the way to high school. It shows the dynamics of growing up and growing apart.

The writing for me was great. To get through a book, the writing has to be on point and that it was for me. The plot was good, but not great which was why I gave it 3 stars. I felt a disconnect. The characters were complex and conflicted. Particularly, Cas
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved this coming-of-age novel that so beautifully portrays the intense relationship between adolescent girls--how important the friendship is (quasi first love) and how it changes as the girls themselves mature and change.
Sep 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is normal to have mixed reactions with a book but I am totally confused with The Burning Girl. I actually liked the book. The plot's an average coming of age tale channeled through the friendship of two girls. I didn't mind that though as Messud has a crystalline writing style and she managed to develop the girl's friendship and give it depth. The conclusion is good too. It's predictable but when well done I don't really mind.

My main problem with the book is that it lacked a soul. Burning Gir
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Claire Messud is an American novelist and literature and creative writing professor. She is best known as the author of the 2006 novel The Emperor's Children. She lives with her husband and family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Born in Greenwich, Connecticut, Messud grew up in the United States, Australia, and Canada, returning to the United States as a teenager. Messud's mother is Canadian, and her

Articles featuring this book

The author of The Emperor's Children explores the friendship between two girls threatened by impending adulthood in her new book, The Burning Girl....
16 likes · 12 comments
“Sometimes I felt that growing up and being a girl was about learning to be afraid. Not paranoid, exactly, but always alert and aware, like checking out the exits in the movie theatre or the fire escape in a hotel. You came to know, in a way you hadn't as a kid, that the body you inhabited was vulnerable, imperfectly fortified. On TV, in the papers, in books and movies, it isn't ever men being raped or kidnapped or bludgeoned or dismembered or burned with acid. But in stories and crime shows and TV series and movies and in life too, it's going on all the time, all around you. So you learn, in your mind, that your body needs to be protected. It's both precious and totally dispensable, depending on whom you encounter.” 21 likes
“With someone you’ve always known and have loved without thinking, there’s the strangeness of knowing everything and nothing about them at the same time.” 5 likes
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