Girls Burn Brighter, written by Shobha Rao, is a 2018 novel set in India and America. This novel explores the themes of friendship, feminism, and family.
The novel begins by introducing a young girl named Poornima. Poornima's mother has recently passed and Poornima is left to take care of her father and her siblings. Readers quickly learn that being a girl from a poor family in India is not a good thing as women are seen as less than equal to men. Poornima's father is especially degrading to her and often comments on her looks and that her attitude will affect his ability to find her a suitable husband. One day, Poornima's father hires another young girl to help him work one of their sari looms.
As soon as Savitha is hired, the two girls immediately form a friendship. Poornima discovers that Savitha is even poorer than her own family. Despite being poor, Savitha is full of energy and a willingness to make the best of her life. Savitha and Poornima dream of their futures together and vow to be best friends. One night, a horrible incident causes Savitha to run away from home. She leaves without saying goodbye to Poornima who is devastated.
Poornima's father finds her a husband who is abusive. She eventually leaves his household to find Savitha. Poornima finds herself involved in a human trafficking ring and discovers that, at one point, Savitha was involved in the same ring. Savitha, after making a heart-wrenching deal, is sent to Seattle, Washington.
When Savitha arrives in Seattle to work as a maid, she finds herself in the middle of another human trafficking ring and is sexually abused frequently. One of the men involved in this ring falls in love with Savitha.
Poornima cleverly finds a way to join Savitha in Seattle only to discover that she is no longer there. Poornima finds herself on a journey through America in order to find her best friend.
The two girls must learn to navigate their struggles to overcome the circumstances they were born into. This story is an eye-opening one that warns of the horrors that the world holds.