Book Title: The Girls
Author: Emma Cline
Series: None (Debut Novel)
Genres: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Suspense, Coming of Age
Date Read: 06/14/16
Pub Date: 06/14/16
4.5 stars (rounded to 5 on GR)
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.
I’m going to admit that this book was way deeper and more intellectual than I initially expected it to be. For some reason I was thinking this would be a thriller or mystery of sorts, and I guess it was in some aspects, but it was so much more than that and I’m really glad I was wrong about this one. I had a difficult time believing this was a debut novel as it was so well written; I can see why Random House has pegged this as one of their top books of Summer 2016. I’ll address it right off the bat; I’ve read multiple reviews stating they DNF because of there the top prose with which this was written. I get it; it put me off a bit in the beginning as well, but I’m glad I stuck with it as that tapered off mostly once I got about 15-20% into the book.
“There are those survivors of disasters whose accounts never begin with the tornado warning or the captain announcing engine failure, but always much earlier in the timeline: an insistence that they noticed a strange quality to the sunlight that morning or excessive static in their sheets. A meaningless fight with a boyfriend. As if the presentiment of catastrophe wove itself into everything that came before. Did I miss some sign? Some internal twinge? The bees glittering and crawling in the crate of tomatoes? An unusual lack of cars on the road? The question I remember Donna asking me in the bus-casually, almost as an afterthought. “You ever hear anything about Russell?”…”
This is one of those books that the summary basically tells you the whole synopsis in a nutshell; there really aren’t any surprises here, just the building knot in your stomach as you slowly approach the grotesque ending. I read a lot of books, namely psychological suspense/thriller, so I come across a good bit of violence and graphic content. The interesting thing about this book is how overall it isn’t extremely graphic in the sense of descriptions of violence; a good bit of this is left to your imagination and THAT is what was so disturbing to me.
There were a a few sections that read a bit slow and that is why I didn’t give this the full 5 STARS; the pacing is very steady and not to be rushed. I would not recommend this as a quick, light read (it is about a violent murder involving members of a dangerous cult- think Charles Manson meets Dangerous Girls) but it was a very interesting interpretation of the 1960’s and what all was going on in this time period. I think I would have liked a little more of Russell’s character but I understand why she left him as mysterious and vague, even following the conclusion.
* There isn’t a ton of violence throughout the book, but the ending is a bit disturbing as it does involve a scene (not fully described) with a child. There also is quite a bit of sexual content (mainly Evie is “discovering herself” but a few scenes involving relationships on and off the compound). I felt it fair to include this as it may sway some reader’s decision to pick this book up.
I’m glad I picked this one up; I haven’t read anything in the realm of historical fiction in a hot second and it was satisfying to travel back to a time that my parents were a part of before I was even a blip on their radar. While a heavy read in all aspects, a worthwhile read.
*I received my copy via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.