There is something mesmerizing about a girlhood friendship that is so close and adventurous, symbiotic and impenetrable. In real life it can be intoxicating, in fiction, life-changing. Such is the case with Claire Messud’s new novel, “The Burning Girl,” in which two girls become best friends in nursery school and go on to grow together into the crevices of each other’s minds, while also sharing the deep desire to leave the confines of their small fictional town of Royston, Mass. In many ways, “The Burning Girl” tells a familiar, hyper-gendered tale of adolescent friendship gone awry. The bond between its main characters, Cassie and Julia, evokes Sula and Nel in Toni Morrison’s “Sula”; the ill-fated pact between Pauline and Juliet in the 1994 film “Heavenly Creatures,” based on the 1954 Parker–Hulme murder case in Christchurch, New Zealand; and of course, the celebrated, fraught and ongoing companionship between Lenu and Lila in the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante. All of these friendships involve a pairing of empathic, compelling and somehow resolutely feminine girls, each with something the other needs or wants, cherishes or romanticizes, rejects or manipulates. “The Burning Girl” is narrated by Julia, who is looking back on her friendship with Cassie as she’s about to start her senior year of high school. When they first met, Cassie “had shiny, white-blond hair, almost albino she was so fair, her skin translucent and a little pink. But you’d be wrong to mistake her size and pallor for frailty.” Cassie, who also had “a Georgia Jagger gap between her front teeth,” was adventurous, self-assured and bold, whereas Julia was the more responsible of the two, and “as big-boned as Cassie was small.” The summer before middle school, the girls are at their most curious, most attached. It is the apex of their friendship, a time when they listen to Katy Perry and Lady Gaga on their iPods, adopt kittens and name them Electra and Xena, and dream of becoming veterinarians and pop stars. They take jobs at the nearby animal shelter, where Cassie has a freak encounter with a pit bull that ends up dictating the limitations and options for the remaining weeks of the summer.