Book Review: Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

I am super behind on my book reviews and right now I am playing catch up. I read Girls Burn Brighter in June and it was part of our diverse summer reading challenge. I won this book in a giveaway and it is an ARC version. Here is my honest review of this book.

About The Book

Author: Shobha Rao

Published: March 2018 by Flatiron Books

Pages: 304

Genre: Fiction/Literary

Other works by author: An Unrestored Woman


A searing, electrifying debut novel set in India and America, about a once-in-a-lifetime friendship between two girls who are driven apart but never stop trying to find one another again.

When Poornima first meets Savitha, she feels something she thought she lost for good when her mother died: hope. Poornima’s father hires Savitha to work one of their sari looms, and the two girls are quickly drawn to one another. Savitha is even more impoverished than Poornima, but she is full of passion and energy. She shows Poornima how to find beauty in a bolt of indigo cloth, a bowl of yogurt rice and bananas, the warmth of friendship. Suddenly their Indian village doesn’t feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond the arranged marriage her father is desperate to lock down for her. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend again. 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 relentless obstacles, Girls Burn Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within them.

My Review

I want to start by saying that I love reading books like this. This form of literature gives us a glaring perspective of what life is like for other human beings. Human beings who bleed red and have the right to breath and live just like we do. Human beings who are treated like animals by their own people as a part of their culture. This book is full of colorism, classism, misogyny and so many other obstacles that we all deal with but this is on such an unimaginable level. Although this is a work of fiction, these are real experiences. This book dives into the sex trade market, child marriage and other disturbing aspects of other cultures. The ideology that women are merely here to serve and bear children just irritates me soul.

Girls Burn Brighter tells the story of the strong bond between Poornima and Savitha. Both girls live in the slums of India and look to each other to get through the pain and suffering they deal with day-to-day. When they are separated, Poornima could think of nothing else but to reunite with Savitha. In my eyes Savitha had the biggest struggle and had to focus more on survival than finding Poornima. I also feel that Savitha didn’t feel that she would have a chance to ever be reunited with Poornima because of their circumstances.

Initially I felt that Savitha was the stronger of the two, but I think as time went on she became broken and weak. Poornima was naive at first but she became the stronger one and I loved her character. I don’t want to give too much away, but this story shows the power of love between two people and how determination eventually brought them back together. I will say, this is a heavy read and at times I felt immense disgust and sadness. I do not like the way this book ended and I feel that it left many unanswered questions about their future together.

Overall I gave this book a 4/5 stars and I would definitely recommend it. Although this book had mostly negative aspects there were some bits of solidarity, strength and eventually freedom and independence. I had to wrap my head around this book after reading it and really digest what I read. The ending really did something/nothing for me. How is that possible?

Have you read Girls Burn Brighter? What did you think?

Happy Reading

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

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