REVIEW: The Girls, Emma Cline

Friday, 13 July 2018

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.

This week has been a baaaad week for books. 
Maybe it’s because of the heatwave; that the green has turned yellow and I can’t remember the last time it rained. The houses in England were built for the grey skies that overlook them ninety-percent of the time, which means, as soon as it gets a little bit warm, the air inside of them turns into a sticky, hazy mess. 
I suppose then, that it was the perfect week to read The Girls, which is set in those hot and sticky summers of the late-1960s with a character based-on-but-not-actually Charles Manson at its centre. And honestly, if it was the perfect week and my rating is what it is, I can not imagine what my feelings towards it would have been during any other time of the year.
The weather has made my hairline damp and my skin red but, unfortunately for the utter shit I have had to wade through, it has also made my patience when it comes to books extremely short. 
Inhumanly short.
Over the last few years I have shied more and more away from Young Adult fiction. Sure, there have been exceptions but, for the most part, I have pushed it aside in favour of nuanced examinations of race and gender and the immigrant experience. The reason? Because, more often than not, Young Adult fiction is over-saturated with whiny, self-obsessed and self-conscious characters, and I spent far too much of my earlier years inhabiting all of those traits to want to read about them now.
I don’t even know if The Girls was intended to be YA - more than likely not - but it fell into those same pitfalls that so many authors do when it comes to writing teenage characters. And honestly, I could have quashed my annoyance if the main character was only whiny, self-obsessed and self-conscious when she was fourteen, but oh no. 
Oh no, oh no, oh no.
Whether the character was fourteen in the exploration of her involvement of the unrealistic and flimsy cult, or in her middle-age looking back at those events, she remained exactly the same. She was desperate for attention from anyone who would give her it and, although they came off as pretty accurate for a love-starved teenager, in the scenes set later, it only led her to come off as predatory.
I just couldn’t stay inside of her head, because that whole why-don’t-they-like-me, why-don’t-they-like-me thing was starting to make my ears ring.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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