The Burning Girl: A Novel – Claire Messud


New York Times Bestseller

A bracing, hypnotic coming-of-age story about the bond of best friends, from the New York Timesbest-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 adolescence, their paths diverge and Cassie sets out on a journey that will put her life in danger and shatter her oldest friendship. The Burning Girl is a complex examination of the stories we tell ourselves about youth and friendship, and straddles, expertly, childhood’s imaginary worlds and painful adult reality―crafting a true, immediate portrait of female adolescence.

Claire Messud, one of our finest novelists, is as accomplished at weaving a compelling fictional world as she is at asking the big questions: To what extent can we know ourselves and others? What are the stories we create to comprehend our lives and relationships? Brilliantly mixing fable and coming-of-age tale, The Burning Girl gets to the heart of these matters in an absolutely irresistible way.


“The friendship of two girls, Julia and Cassie, animates this slim, dreamlike novel. . . . Messud plays, lightly, with familiar archetypes, deftly abstracting her take so that it flares into myth.”
– The New Yorker

“[Messud] is an absolute master storyteller and bafflingly good writer. . . . It is that combination of imagination and skill that makes The Burning Girl exceptional. . . . It amplifies that subtle, piercing shift between Cassie and Julia, made brighter by passages of sheer splendorous prose.”
– Rebecca Carroll, Los Angeles Times

“[A] masterwork of psychological fiction. . . . Messud teases readers with a psychological mystery, withholding information and then cannily parceling it out.” – Julia Klein, Chicago Tribune

“Ms. Messud is at her most incisive in exploring the volatile transition from childhood to adolescence.” – Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

“Messud is psychologically astute about her characters and about the competing social and familial pressures . . . that make adolescent friendship and its dissolution so fraught.” – Boston Globe