Format Read: ARC Edition (353 pages)
Genre: Contemporary/ Historical Fiction
Source: Shelf Awareness Giveaway
Rating: THREE STARS
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.
Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction—and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become.
This book had some great writing, but not enough plot to hold your interest for long. This book started me on a reading slump, because I couldn't relate to the protagonist Evie. Evie's life is changed the day she meets Suzanne, but her inner thoughts and feelings are fill most of the book. We don't learn who the characters are in the cult, and their back story is never explained. I was looking forward to a fictionalized exploration into a 'Manson like' cult. Instead I got an in depth examination of Evie coming of age. The cult itself is not the main focus of the book, depraved violence is briefly described but swept away by Evie's reaction to it.
I was only just starting to learn how to rig certain information with apology. How to mock myself before other people could.
Evie finds her way to the Ranch after running away from home, and becoming infatuated with Suzanne. The Ranch is run by Russell a charismatic and predatory leader. The descriptions of what the ranch was, and how it was run, was sparse. Evie wants to become a part of the group and passively accepts things the way they are, including sexual and physical abuse. Evie imagines the Ranch as a magical escape, so she doesn't describe how it fits in or interacts with the rest of the world well. Evie's parents are described as well meaning, but neither takes a genuine interest in their daughters well being. The book could have been much shorter, Evie's rambling thoughts were interesting but didn't propel the story.
As if the bright flash of your efforts could distract death from coming for you, keep the bull snorting harmlessly after the scarlet flag.
The Girls is a coming of age story with adult themes. Some of the marketing materials describe it as thriller, but this is a slow moving exploration of Evie. The historical setting, led to some interesting descriptions, and served the books atmosphere well. I enjoyed the writing and was able to finish the book, but I was disappointed it didn't live up to the hype. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy contemporary, character driven, young adult books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emma Cline is from California. Her fiction has appeared in Tin House and The Paris Review, and she was the recipient of the 2014 Paris Review Plimpton Prize.