**Thank you to the publisher, Flatiron Books, for an advanced reader copy (ARC) to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**
In general, I don’t need a book to remind me how fortunate I am or to help me be more grateful for the life I live. But Girls Burn Brighter was one of them that had me on my knees thanking God for the blessings I have!
This story is heartbreaking in so many ways. Poornima, a young girl coming-of-age in India, loses her mother just as her family is getting ready to marry her off. As is custom in India, the wedding was put on hold after her mother’s death, and while this should seem like an insignificant part of the story, it is, in fact, the turning point for everything that will happen to Poornima.
Once Poornima is finally married off, she must leave her family and best friend behind. But once she’s gone, her best friend, Savitha, is never far from her mind. They have a special bond that will tie them together forever, regardless of time or distance. This bond allows each of the girls to survive with hope that they will one day be united again.
What I loved about this book was the friendship between Poornima and Savitha. It was the definition of true love – ultimately, the only thing that mattered was the other person’s well-being and happiness. They cared deeply for each other, and even after being separated without knowing anything about the other’s whereabouts or circumstances, they had an inexplicable connection to each other. Rao conveyed this commitment to each other so beautifully; it was my favorite aspect of the book.
Sadly, the thing about this book that didn’t work for me was what the book was about: human trafficking. I’ve heard the statistics about human and sex trafficking; it’s a lot more prevalent than many of us realize. This book brings to light the ease with which these men so callously buy, sell, and trade these women (oftentimes, they truly are still children). They are subjected to horrific and inhumane treatment. Some of the parts of the book are incredibly hard to read.
Any time a story comes along that sheds some light on atrocities, I’m all for it! That’s one of the reasons I read: to learn about things I don’t know about. However, in my opinion, when an author chooses to take on such emotionally difficult subject matter, they are taking on a huge responsibility. It isn’t enough to just bring the issue to light – you must also make that emotional connection to the reader as a call to action. Upset them, enrage them, make them cry! Then, maybe you will inspire action and change. Maybe then someone will rise up to be the voice for these girls that they don’t have themselves.
The book didn’t do this for me. And I think it’s a huge travesty for me to say that I actually felt very indifferent to it all. It read like fiction instead of reality – which it very much is real and happening right now, in this country! Let me be clear: it was difficult to read, but instead of outraging me and forcing me to connect the story with real life, it felt like the author just included it for shock value. And that, to me, is unacceptable given the subject matter.