Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

When you read this story, you’re going to be taken aback. You’re going to assume this is the story about young women who are kidnapped and rapped and treated like dirt and you’ll feel this overwhelming need to protect and speak out for these women. What you won’t understand is that this life is a reflection of hardship. For some people, hardship is finding a job in a career that they dream to get. But for Savitha and Poornima, hardship is survival, of strength, of the power of the female friendship.

Here’s a little bit more about the book

34275212Poornima and Savitha have three strikes against them: they are poor, they are ambitious, and they are girls. After her mother’s death, Poornima has very little kindness in her life. She is left to care for her siblings until her father can find her a suitable match. So when Savitha enters their household, Poornima is intrigued by the joyful, independent-minded girl. Suddenly their Indian village doesn’t feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond arranged marriage. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend.

Her journey takes her into the darkest corners of India’s underworld, on a harrowing cross-continental journey, and eventually to an apartment complex in Seattle. Alternating between the girls’ perspectives as they face ruthless obstacles, Girls Burn Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within.

I absolutely loved this book. From the beginning of this story, I couldn’t put down the book. It captured me the moment I started reading it and continued to enrapture me and then abandoned me right at the end! I could feel my hands ball up into fists while I read some of the scarier parts and I also felt the need to cry when everything seemed hopeless towards the end.

The story takes place in two different perspectives. First, it starts together with the main characters and their lives in Indravalli in Southern India. Poornima is a burden to her father for being born a woman and therefore he’s looking for someone to marry her off to. Savitha is poorer than Poornima so she spends most of her time making money for her family. From the beginning you can feel the prejudice for these families because of their class and their gender. Being women meant having to pay out dowries when they got married. Being women meant obeying your husband and not thinking for yourself. I found myself wondering if this was real life, if what was going on was a frequent occurrence in the lives of many Indian women.

But like I said in the beginning of this review, don’t interpret what you see as weakness.

When Poornima and Savitha meet for the first time, Savitha was working for her father as a weaver while Poornima kept her focus on being the most agreeable bride you’ve ever seen. Both of these girls come together to share a few meals and a lifelong friendship is born. Suddenly, something happens (I won’t say what) that causes these two girls to separate.

And it was the small amount of time spent with each other that fueled their passion to escape their fates. They were always recalling moments together and remembering their friendship fondly. It was those moments and recalling those memories that helped Poornima find her way towards Savitha.

From this point on, the story gets more and more frustrating as you see Poornima being sold off to her new husband and Savitha runs away. The story diverges at this point separating them from themselves as well as that childhood innocence. The book is even strategically written in parts, one dedicated to Savitha’s journey and the other to Poornima.

I interpreted all the slings and arrows Savitha and Poornima faced as hurdles in their life. They could have easily knelt down and accepted whatever life they were given, but instead they ran away. They were cunning. They did their best to learn skills and people and escape their fates. Every chapter and every event felt like watching an episode of Maguyver where they took a bobby pin and some dried toothpaste and made a bomb to escape. It was like watching Bear Grills eat bugs and drink his own pee, except for some reason people can’t leave women alone.

While Savitha is bought and sold off by various people, Poornima’s story seems to be more focused on finding Savitha. I thought it was strange that it was one friend finding the other and the other seemed to just reminisce in hopes of using her memories as comfort. I really wish there was a bigger effort from Savitha to find Poornima and perhaps there wouldn’t be this ache in my heart right at the end.

 

I wasn’t a fan of the ending, I’ll admit. I can feel myself feeling the same kind of anticipation that Poornima was feeling being so close to Savitha, but the ending came too quickly for me. It almost felt rushed and the final part (belonging to Poornima) didn’t reflect the same way the rest of the book did.

It was nebulous and maybe the intention here was to give you hope the same way these girls carried hope for themselves. All throughout the novel you’re so hopeful for these girls. You pray that they’ll be able to escape the lives that they found themselves living. You think that they’ll finally escape and finally be together again, but you never know. I think that stands as a pretty good metaphor for life. You don’t know if you’ll ever see that friend again, but you know you carry that flame and you’ll try to never let it go out.

  • Hardcover, 320 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books (March 6, 2018)
  • Rating: 5/5 stars
  • Buy Girls Burn Brighter on Amazon

Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

I don’t normally include a song to go with my reviews, but the entire time I was reading this book I kept thinking of this Selena Gomez song Wolves. I’m also a huge fan of hers and well, thought it would make sense for a book like this.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

When I was younger, I would concentrate super hard on the tops of trees. I would try to control the wind with my mind and a true test of that would be to make the branches sway. I did this up until I was in my teens always believing that the wind was on my side. The day that the branches did sway cemented in me that magic is real and we all have a little bit of it in us.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is the story of Weylyn Grey told through the eyes of the people who encounter him. Weylyn Grey was born with magical powers; powers that allow him to speak with animals, grow plants, and change weather patterns with his emotions. The only power Weylyn’s ever wanted was to feel normal. When his parents inexplicably die, he was raised by wolves and only to be caught by the police and brought to live with the rest of society. You could only imagine the kind of life a wolf boy may have lived.

This book was honestly one of my favorite reads of the year. It uses magical realism to an extent that it’s whimsical. I’ve read a lot of heavy magical realism where strange things happen to people and those stories always seem so depressing. Instead, the magic depicted in this book makes you wish that magic was real. I guess in some ways, magic is always real.

The story is told in several different parts from the point of view of various different characters. Each part is from a different point in Weylyn’s life and the people he comes across. There’s always one new person he meets and they get to experience his magic for the first time. I can only imagine the awe on their faces when they see him grow a tree back or harness the power of fireflies. And each time I read a new thing he was doing, I felt like a little kid again excited to go to Disney World because that’s where Mickey Mouse lived.

I was confused at first and it might have been the copy I was reading, but I couldn’t place the timelines. It first takes place in present day, but then it jumps back to the early 90s. Then it’s back up to 2017 and it was at that point that I realized that the story begins with Weylyn meeting a new friend. He tells him his story and how he came to be and the people he remembers from that life. After that point, it was smooth sailing as I voraciously read the rest of the book.

I think the story brings out the child in you; that one little being that doesn’t remember what responsibilities are and finds the sun glittering in water to be a gift. Of course the story has its skeptics and life wasn’t all that easy for Weylyn, but the people who did believe helped him out. And I think my favorite part in all of this is that Weylyn never let the opinions of other people keep him from being himself. This goes double for the years he spent alone in the woods.

I was so surprised to see this book not get as much hype as it deserved. I didn’t see a lot of people bring it up and especially as a follower of Book of the Month Club, I was surprised that most people focused on the other books that month. Honestly, I feel like I stumbled upon The Neverending Story and I was Bastian and the only one who can know about its richness.

So I decided to look into some of the feedback other people provided. Maybe I was missing something that other people noticed. While mostly positive, I did see some comments on how the main character, Weylyn, fell flat for them. Because he wasn’t well developed or explained, people gave some negative feedback about it.

I can see where people can make that conclusion. It’s a story about a guy with magical powers, yet you find out very little about his life with the wolves or how he’s managed to live with such a power.

However, I’d like to beg to differ here. While I understand that people wanted to know more about Weylyn, I think the author purposefully left out the details of his life to keep him a mystery. The story is in the perspective of the other characters and those other characters don’t know much. All they know is a boy who can control the weather, has a pet pig, and lived with wolves.

I loved hat the author used this as a literary device to under-explain why Weylyn did what he did and what he was capable of doing. He’s just a man that comes and goes as he pleases. He’s caring and still carries the same childish exuberance for life that he did when he was a kid raised by wolves. Asking for more than that almost reveals the wizard behind the curtain. Knowing this might actually change the way Weylyn knows himself and almost cheapen the story. I’m happy to not know anything about him other than the tidbits the characters reveals. We’re all on that same journey together.

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not paid to review this book.