I’m sure you’ve noticed the overwhelming number of books from the last few years with the word “girl(s)” in the title. Here are two more…
The Girls by Emma Cline
Historical Fiction (Released June 14, 2016)
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Random House) via NetGalley
Plot Summary: Inspired by the 1960’s California cult led by Charles Manson, The Girls is the story of fourteen year-old Evie Boyd’s involvement with an older teenage girl (Suzanne) and her fellow cohorts living a cultish life under the thrall of their leader (Russell) on a dilapidated ranch.
My Thoughts: This novel, along with The Nest, is one of the most hotly anticipated debuts of the year and I’d been waiting for exactly the right time to start reading it (turns out it was on Mother’s Day). I knew the story was inspired by the Manson cult, but I expected it to focus on the murders. Instead, The Girls is a much more subtle book about teen angst and the context and culture surrounding the Manson cult. Through her gorgeous writing, Cline perfectly captures how an average teen girl living in a somewhat kooky time and place could get sucked into the aura of Manson and his disciples. And, that, rather than the murders themselves, is the crux of the novel.
I couldn’t help my pleasure at being the focus of their attention. Inexplicably, they seemed to like me, and the thought was foreign and cheering, a mysterious gift I didn’t want to probe too much.
That being said, the story does eventually get to the murders and I appreciated it’s slow build to the inevitable climax. Along the way, Cline keeps the reader hooked by dropping tantalizing hints about seemingly innocuous moments that became meaningful in hindsight.
If you like coming of age stories involving teen angst (My Sunshine Away) and/or fiction based on true crime (The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress), this might be the summer book for you. And, it’s sure to have you Googling the Manson murders to guess the real-life inspiration for each fictional character!
Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
Fiction (Released May 17, 2016)
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Harper)
Plot Summary: When golden boy classmate Craig Ellison is found dead in the woods, Hannah (aka “Dex”) and Lacey embark on an unlikely and “obsessive” friendship with far-reaching ramifications.
My Thoughts: When I first started this novel, I thought I’d found the follow-up to The Fever and The Unraveling of Mercy Louis I’d been looking for forever (aka the smart, but intense book about high school that doesn’t read like YA). Girls on Fire showcases the demented and vicious girls of The Fever and the religious zealotry of Mercy Louis. And, in the beginning, the writing sparkled…
The thought of the corpse wasn’t what disturbed me most, not even close. What disturbed me most was the revelation that someone like Craig Ellison had secrets – that he had actual, human emotions not altogether dissimilar from mine. Deeper, apparently, because when I had a bad day, I watched cartoons and hoovered up a bag of Doritos whereas Craig took his father’s gun into the woods and blew a hole through the back of his head.
But, as the story went on, an increasing focus on the devil and Satanic cults added a sense of hokeyness that I couldn’t get past. And that hokeyness took the bite right out of the completely F’d up antics of these high school girls. Cline tells the story from various perspectives and it especially suffered when it got stuck in Lacey’s Kurt Cobain-obsessed, misfit brain. If I had to sum up my main issue with this book in a few words, they would be “more Dex, less Lacey.” So, I’m sadly still on the hunt (and taking recommendations!) for my next dark, smart book about demented high school students.