Lish McBride’s debut novel, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, is as funny and twisted as the title implies. Firebug (Henry Holt, 2014) is set in the same fictional universe, populated by a hidden society of supernatural beings like vampires and werewolves, but features a brand-new cast of characters. McBride writes like Joss Whedon on amphetamines, peppering every page with quips and puns, so if you like your teen angst with a heaping side of snark, you’ll probably enjoy Firebug.
What’s it about? Ava Halloway is a firebug, a person with the power to set fires with her mind. Her ability is incredibly rare, and the head of the local magical mafia, a sadistic vampire named Venus, has forced Ava to work for the sinister cabal as a hitman. But when her latest assignment targets someone she loves, Ava and her partners–a hyper were-fox named Ezra and the dreamy dryad, Lock–decide to fight back.
For me, Firebug was one draft away from greatness–which, to be fair, is closer than many books get. I edit novels for a living, and it can be very difficult for me to flip the switch from editor mode to reader mode. I read Firebug with an imaginary red pen in hand, and I have notes. I’ll spare y’all the exhaustive list, but I do want to share one issue that caused me to knock a whole star off my rating. There was an undercurrent of girl-hate running through this book, which surprised me since McBride is pretty woke in other ways. Ava, our first-person narrator, makes a lot of mean-spirited comments about other girls’ looks, weight, intelligence, and presumed promiscuity. Early on in the book, Ava is called out for her irrational hatred of Brittany (who is herself a cliched “mean girl”), but the book quickly lets her off the hook for her jealousy and pettiness, and later doubles down on it when she despises another girl on sight for no reason. I’m not saying that every book needs to be all Ra-Ra Sisterhood!, but the repeated body shaming and slut shaming comments made it difficult for me to feel fully invested in Ava’s story.
Emperor Cupcake’s Rating System Explained:
1 Star: This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
2 Stars: Not great, Bob.
3 Stars: The emperor is pleased. You may live.
4 Stars: Ooh, shiny!
5 Stars: *Incoherent, high-pitched fan-girling*