Book reviews

EARLY review: Before the Fire by Sarah Butler

The stunning and timely new novel from Sarah Butler, author of the international sensation Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love

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 to go, 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…

Release Date: 12th March 2015
Source: ARC received from Pan Macmillian Australia (thank you for the surprise)
256 pages

My Rating


I didn’t like this book at all. I would almost go as far to say I hated it. Stick, the main character was pretty much the type of guy that I dislike. He had the ugliest and most foul language in the world, his version of love is purely based on sex (pretty much blow jobs), he will get wasted as often as he likes, he will smoke everything and anything that will ruin his body, his attitude to his family and his friends is awful and he has absolutely no respect for himself or anybody else. Beginning this book, I tolerated him thinking that he would experience some sort character development turning into at least a gentlemen from this bastard (it was a long shot) but he didn’t at all. At the end of the book, he was still the same arsehole he was when his best friend, Mac was alive.

This novel had no significant story line at all. Stick’s best friend, Mac is murdered in a random knife attack the night before they plan to leave on a road trip to Spain where they plan to sleep around and get drunk every night. As you can probably tell, I had no empathy for Stick at all. He didn’t handle Mac’s death very well. He ignored all of his loved ones efforts to comfort him, he ran away looking for trouble and his version of love means having sex. The point of a book that looks at overcoming grief, this didn’t go very well. This book ended and Stick still had the same anger and arrogance he had before. Even then, I as the reader still didn’t get enough closure about the court case against Mac’s murderer.

I think Butler tried to use J, the love interest to soften Stick up and be the one to “change” him like in most contemporary romance books. This was done poorly. We only get introduced to J, properly about half away into the book (and its a short book) and even after that, there is no relationship development written about the two of them. They meet, they take drugs and boom they’re together. And after that, the book doesn’t delve much into their relationship. There weren’t those scenes in the book where the two of them actually talk to each other because most of the time, Stick is chanting in his head how badly he wants to f*** her. Yup, I hated his character so much because he expects a girl to give him a blow job when it is the most undignified act in the world, especially to the girl. Their relationship is flat and their attraction has no substance.

In conclusion, I did not enjoy this book at all. None of the characters appealed to me, the plot and writing fell flat and I did not get any satisfaction with the ending. This book is certainly a terrible example of what love is and how to overcome grief and sorrow.



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