Title: The Girls
Author: Emma Cline
Publication Date: June 14, 2016
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Fiction (Adult)
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 have had this book on my TBR since it came out and I’m so sad that it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. If I remember correctly, this book was marketed as a Manson Family type of cult book which is why I was so excited to read it. First off, this is much more of a coming of age story than it is a book about a cult. Secondly, this cult had a few similarities to the Manson Family but it wasn’t that similar at all. I am very familiar with the Manson story and I kept waiting for things to happen that never materialized. I’m not sure if the author ever meant for the book to be hyped up so much as a retelling of the Manson murders so I don’t wait to talk negatively about her in that regard. It could all have been bad marketing or people just clinging to that one aspect of the book and blowing it up.
The story mostly has to do with the main character, Evie, during the summer she was 14. Her story is mostly impacted by people outside of the cult, although she does develop a strong relationship/companionship with Suzanne, who is the top female in the cult. Suzanne is a 19 year old girl who takes Evie under her wing and is her go to for all things cult related. The relationship between Suzanne and Evie is the most impactful while she was 14 and for the rest of her life.
The writing in this book was so beautiful and really brought me back to all my teenage insecurities. Cline did an amazing job of evoking all of those girlish thoughts that seem so important at the time. One of my most loved things about this book was that I found myself remembering things that I haven’t thought about in years and years. I was remembering times with friends when we would just hang out and listen to music and have meaningless conversations for hours. I know that some people didn’t really like how Cline would overly describe some things but for me it really worked.
One thing I think the book could do without was the switch in time between 14 year old Evie and middle aged Evie. Sometimes I thought it was helpful but most of the time I was annoyed that it was taking me out of the story I was most interested and invested in. I feel like there could have been a way where everything could have been incorporated into one seamless timeline.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book once I got over the fact that it was not what I was expecting. I definitely want to read the next book that Emma Cline comes out with because her writing style really spoke to me. I also really liked the feminist tones of the book and I hope that continues on in her writing. This was very much a women are strong, beautiful, broken and flawed kind of character writing that I enjoy reading.