Monday, 9 March 2015

Review: Before the Fire by Sarah Butler

Before the Fire
Behind 256 Pages
Released: 1 March 2015
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: PanMacmillan Australia
Pre Order: Angus & Robertson  |  Booktopia  |  Bookworld  |  Book Depository  |  Fishpond
At the Other End:
It's June 2011. Stick and Mac are a couple of months shy of eighteen; summer's approaching and they're about to leave their north Manchester estate for the beaches of southern Spain.

But the night before they're planning leave, Mac ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time, the victim of a random knife attack, and suddenly Stick's going nowhere.

His mum doesn't want him to leave the house; his dad's desperate to be his best friend; and his nan's boyfriend keeps telling him Mac's doing just fine in the spirit world.

Then he meets J and she might just be everything he needs. Except she's a firebrand with a grudge against the police, and the August riots are just around the corner...

Sarah Butler is in her early thirties and lives in Manchester. She is the author of Ten Things I've Learnt About Love, which was pre-empted by Penguin USA in a six-figure deal and translated in fourteen languages. She also runs a consultancy which develops literature and arts projects that explore and question our relationship to place. Sarah has been writer in residence on the Central Line, the Greenwich Peninsula, and at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and has taught creative writing for the British Council in Kuala Lumpur.

Find Sarah:
Website  |  Twitter

Let’s just say that I didn’t like Before the Fire. I didn’t even get why it was called Before the Fire, to be honest with you all. Even after finishing the book, I’ve got no idea what it’s supposed to do with the story or anything. *Sigh* frustrating much? 

I didn’t like Stick. I really hated him. He is everything I hate in a guy, and you know what, he doesn’t change. It sounds like the kid has depression over his best friend and his sister’s deaths. Not that you even find out exactly what happened to his sister anyway, but back to that later. Stick is the guy that you don’t want in your life. All he cares about is:
  1. Drinking until he is completely blind and doesn’t know what the fuck he is doing anymore. His goal is to be completely incoherent.
  2. Smoking everything under the sun. Well, you can include drinking everything as well to make you high as fuck.
  3. All he thinks about is who the next chick is to give him a blow job. Think back to the female leads in other books where you think they blush too much, well think of this guy as instead of blushing, he gets hard. 
  4. He doesn’t give two shits about anything or anyone else. Sure, it may seem like at the start that he gives a shit about his mum, but really he doesn’t. 
  5. He doesn’t want a job and doesn’t want to help himself. HE DOESN’T CARE.

I honestly thought that J would be someone who would change Stick for the better. You know, get him ready for real life and help him get over his friend’s death. Nope, this girl is exactly the same as Stick. You could even use those same points above to describe her (except #3, this chick has some decency).

Other than being about grief and Stick trying to overcome it, I don’t understand the plot line. It seems like this book could have gone in two directions when it was being written, the one about the sister, or the one about the friend, and it seems like this finished product just couldn’t make up its mind. We hear about Stick’s sister, Sophie a lot in this book, and yet, we never really know what happened to her. Sure, we know how she died, but how did it happen, and all the other details you want to know when they are being so cryptic! He is mourning for the loss of his friend, Mac, and for his sister, yet we don’t know exactly what happened to Sophie and we know every single detail about Mac’s death. It’s like the book should be focused around Mac’s death, yet Sophie’s keeps popping up here and there.

Let me say something good about this book, the only thing in my opinion, was that once you started reading it, it became addictive. You wanted to know more about the case and what was going to happen. Ok, not majorly addictive, but enough that I still wanted to keep reading.

Overall, if you don’t mind reading about characters like this, then you would enjoy this book. Unfortunately, it ruined the book for me :(

This novel was received for review via PanMacmillan Australia. This review is entirely my own, no bribery or any deals have been made to sway this review or change my personal opinion of the novel.


  1. Your review seems to have posted twice on the same page. Maybe it's not loading for me properly though.

    Stick sounds horrid, like a YA Travis Maddox really. Although he's grieving, still doesn't explain why he's some kind of drunken and high wanker who only cares about getting off. I have this one for review too and now hesitant to start it. Like you, I need characters that are worth redemption, and neither sound like they're worthy. Wish me luck with this one Gina, I'm going to need it. Brilliant review nonetheless <3

    1. Yeah, I know something happened :( I've fixed it now after a few hours trying to fix it haha
      He really was horrid, although I liked Travis Maddox in a way because he at least was sane. This guy was completely fucked up and I really hated him.

  2. I think the ending might have something to do with why it was called Before The Fire, at the beginning when they describe the couple kissing in amongst the flames. I dunno, the whole thing infuriated me really. The treatment of girls as objects and he was just so abrasive. I felt exactly the same way as you Gina, actually, I'm yet to see anyone who actually enjoyed this one.

    1. That's true, but the title really has something to do with his sister as well, which we hear nothing about. AND, it only says that J is a pyrotechnic in the blurb, there is really no evidence (except for the end) that she is fascinated by fire. I'm curious to read someone's review who did like this book, just to see what they say.


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