Live Like Your Head’s On Fire

(16 customer reviews)


When fifteen year-old Pen Flowers climbs out of her bedroom window in the middle of the night to dance in the empty streets, she ignites a flame in herself that will change everything.


About Live Like Your Head’s On Fire by Sally-Anne Lomas

Life isn’t easy for Pen Flowers. Her mum’s agoraphobia is so bad that she can barely leave the house, while her father is spending more and more time working away, and her best friend is hanging out with the class bully. It’s all getting too much.

But when she ‘goes mad’ in dance class, she finds a language to express the pent-up emotions seething inside her. She takes to climbing out of her bedroom window in the middle of the night to dance in the empty streets and sets off a chain of events that will change everything.

Sally-Anne Lomas’s debut – the first in her acclaimed On Fire trilogy – is a word-of-mouth triumph. In Pen Flowers she has created an archetypal character for our age – determined, passionate, ambitious, loyal, vulnerable, resilient. Strap yourself in for a page-turning epic you’ll fall in love with.


Read an Extract

Author Introduction



‘A gripping story, full of honesty, energy, heartache and joy. I love this book. Sally-Anne Lomas is a new and powerful writer.’
Yvvette Edwards, MAN Booker Prize Longlisted author of A Cupboard Full of Coats and The Mother
‘Engaging and spirited throughout.’ The Financial Times
‘Wonderful. I couldn’t put it down. Magical. funny, scary, heartbreaking, and joyous!.’ Iain B MacDonald, Director of Shameless, Wayne and Mansfield Park
‘An exhilarating, funny, heartwarming debut that will inspire you to follow your dreams.’ C. J. Flood, author of Infinite Sky and Nightwanderers
‘Written with buoyancy and wit, with a turn of phrase that had me chuckling and snorting with laughter, Live Like Your Head’s on Fire is a wonderful coming-of-age novel about discovering and following your dreams. Pen’s journey from schoolgirl to dancer is full of comedy, pain, embarrassment, longing and passion but what Lomas captures so well are the uncertainties and shifting friendships of adolescence. And in Pen’s new friends, the vulnerable but dangerous Melody and the irrepressible optimist Vivienne, Lomas has created two real-as-life characters whom you can’t help but warm to. This is a moving, satisfying debut.’ Richard Lambert, poet, novelist, and author of The Wolf Road

About the author

Sally-Anne Lomas is a writer and creater of Writing Well workshops
Sally-Anne Lomas lives in Norfolk.Live Like Your Head’s on Fire is her debut novel. She is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and Creative Director of the Cloth of Kindness health and wellbeing textile art project. She runs writing and movement for wellbeing workshops.


Publication Details

Print ISBN: 9781912665310
Ebook ISBN: 9781912665051
Original Print ISBN: 9781912665037 – Now out of print
Length: 276pp
Format: Paperback Original
First published: 1st March 2021
Jacket design: Natty Peterkin

Planet Positive Publishing

Story Machine is committed to putting the environment first. This book is printed using processes that are:
Planet Positive Printing means that our books are a little more expensive than they would otherwise be. We believe that this is a small price to pay for the future of our planet.

Additional information

Weight 0.45 kg
Dimensions 13 × 3 × 20 cm
UK 2nd Class Royal Mail Postage


UK 1st Class Royal Mail Postage


International Airmail


Local NR3 Delivery


16 reviews for Live Like Your Head’s On Fire

  1. johnny fincham

    An excitiing and uplifting read. Hugely enjoyable for young adults and anyone in for a good coming-of-age novel.

  2. Zara Hunter

    I loved this book! It was exciting and uplifting, and made my heart race in parts! A very strong YA debut.

  3. Mia Sharrock

    I would 100% recommend this book to any young adult (and beyond!). It has wonderful characters, a compelling plot that stays with you, and a fire at its heart. I hope that there’s a sequel coming out soon because I really want to know what happens for Pen next!

  4. Robin

    I have just read Live Like Your Head’s On Fire and even though I am male and old, the way I find myself relating to the feelings Pen Flowers goes through during this book is remarkable. It returns me to my youth. Feelings of just wanting to let go never leave us we are just better at suppressing them. I hope everyone who reads this book enjoys it as much as I did.

  5. Liz Jolly

    This book is full of energy and passion, just like it’s heroine, Pen.
    Lomas captures the pushes and pulls, challenges and contradictions of starting to grow into yourself.
    A beautifully crafted and vivid page turner … Go Pen!

  6. Sara Willett

    A terrific debut novel, that fizzes and pops with the energy of youth. A story of dreams and friendship – the writing is warm and witty, but never shies away from the more painful aspects of adolescence. There are many laugh out loud moments, however I was also deeply moved and ultimately found myself cheering for Pen Flowers and her indomitable spirit

  7. Mary Muir

    A passionate coming of age debut novel that explores themes of love, loss, family, friendship, identity, and the transformative power of creativity.

  8. Eleanor Langan

    “Like your Head’s on Fire” is a compelling read. I could not put it down. I think it will appeal to teenagers, but I would also recommend it to adults who wish to understand the complex lives of young adults. The central characters come from different backgrounds and are not perfect., but by the end I cared deeply about them. There is some gritty realism in the plot , but there is also joy and hope. I look forward to Sally -Anne Lomas’ next novel.

  9. Rachel Higgs

    A hugely entertaining and evocative novel which reminds the adult reader what it’s like to be a teenager. An array of relatable characters and great storytelling. I look forward to the sequel!

  10. Sophie Hough

    This is a really enjoyable read, and I LOVE the characterisation. It will inspire you to follow your dreams and not let anyone hold you back. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone (and everyone) over the age of 12.

  11. Becky Collen

    A wonderful debut novel with a gutsy and brave heroine. Pen’s journey reminds us all that the most rewarding path is not always the easiest one and how valuable true friendship really is.

  12. Ellie Arnander

    I absolutely loved this book. An excellent story, uplifting and comforting, with great warmth at its heart.

  13. Amanda Addison

    Live Like Your Head’s On Fire is such an enjoyable and pacey read. It is also an important book for young people, as it shows how life changing and life affirming finding your ‘thing’ can be. In the case of Pen Flowers, her ‘thing’ is dancing. When Pen dances she feels alive and connected – although like in all good novels she has to go through a series of trials and tribulations to succeed. The book has its love triangle, but is so refreshing to read a love triangle which isn’t about finding Mr Right. It is centred around the relationship Pen has with two of her friends and finding the awareness to see who is good for you. These themes also cut across age groups, so although Pen is a teenager, the book could also appeal to adults and make for fruitful discussion in reading groups.

  14. Paula Morris

    A totally gripping and absorbing read – I couldn’t put it down. So many fascinating, fully-developed characters that you find yourself rooting for, and falling in love with. I can’t wait for the next one to learn what happens next for Vivienne, Penn, Melody and all.

  15. Ben Lunn

    A fantastic novel! It’s funny, moving, and beautifully written. Pen Flowers is the ideal literary friend at a time when you can’t visit your own! Introduce yourself to her!!

  16. Nikki Horner (verified owner)

    Loved it! Could really feel the pain of teenage (and adult) family relationships and friendships and the excitement of life ahead. Please hurry up with the sequel. Want to know what happens next!

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