Author: Emma Cline
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 14 June 2016
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Girls—their vulnerability, strength, and passion to belong—are at the heart of this stunning first novel for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.
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.
Normally I try and read books closer to their publication dates. I like posting reviews at a time when it’s best for the book. This book, though — once I started reading it I could not stop. I didn’t want to stop. I stayed up until three in the morning because, not just this story but because of Cline’s masterful use of language.
“Girls are the only ones who can really give each other close attention, the kind we equate with being loved.”
There is an undercurrent of mystery, of suspense and violence, that propels Evie Boyd’s story both in the past and the present. Told through flashbacks Evie is pulled into through residual post traumatic stress. Small triggers remind her of her days on what she calls “the ranch.” Her time there was everything that I would have expected from a young girl caught up in a world that she’s not yet ready for. Evie’s upper middle class life, safe and suburban, is turned upside down the more time she spends within the confines of the ranch.
As expected with books set in 1969, there are drugs and sex but Cline handles these in such a way that isn’t erotic or raunchy. She documents Evie’s sexual awakening, her self-discovery, in a shy but spell-binding way. I could not help but be drawn into Evie’s story the way she had been initially drawn into Suzanne. For me, Evie’s obsession with Suzanne bordered not on lust or love, but on a want to become Suzanne and a need to feel desired and important. But this need blinds Evie, even in her adult life.
“But I was quiet, trying to imagine how that would feel: to be so known to someone that you had become almost the same person.”
Psychological, thrilling, magical, and beautiful, The Girls walks the line between thriller and coming of age in a way I haven’t read before.
The Girls is out June 14th! You can pre-order your copy today.