Publication year: 2016
Publisher: Random House
Goodreads rating: 3.48
My rating: 4/5
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.
Reading the cover I didn’t gather that this was essentially about a cult. I saw a beautiful cover and a story about a girl who was mesmerised by a group of girls and she would get pulled into something bad. That was all I knew starting out.
I was definitely pleasantly surprised. The plot was compelling and I was dragged into it. There is a dual storyline. There is the present where she is staying at her friend’s beach house and the past where she experienced it. While it split the story, I found that the present day storyline was unnecessary to me. There was no apparent development in her persona it just made her seem sad, as if she never got over that one summer. I would have preferred there to be an extended epilogue and ending as the conclusion was too abrupt and felt anticlimactic. Perhaps that was the author’s way of saying sometimes that is all that happens. If so, nice one Emma Cline.
That being said, what was excellent about the way this story was told, and maybe this is the true reason she went with two storylines at once, she told the story as she experienced it in 1969 and at the same time the way she saw it looking back in the present. She, for example, described she saw the farm as beautiful and perfect in every way, little did she notice the horrible smells nor how skinny the girls were. Or maybe she did notice, she just didn’t care. We get everything at once. I’m not used to reading stories that way and I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I’ve seen other reviewers criticising this. It was wholesome.
Overall the story is interesting captivating and keeps you on the edge of your seat. It prompts a lot of thought. I, and I assume many others, have felt the was Evie did as a young teen and I wonder if, had I been in her shoes, would I have been just as captivated, would I have wanted to go to that farm? I like to hope not. In all honesty, I would probably have been so intimidated by The Girls I would never have talked to any of them in the first place. And in this case, I think that’s a good thing.
If you like fiction books, attempting to understand Charles Manson and would like to challenge how you think about people, give this book a try!