The Girls by Emma Cline | Rating: ★★★★★
That was our mistake, I think. One of many mistakes. To believe that boys were acting with a logic that we could someday understand. To believe that their actions had any meaning beyond thoughtless impulse. We were like conspiracy theorists, seeing portent and intention in every detail, wishing desperately that we mattered enough to be the object of planning and speculation. But they were just boys. Silly and young and straightforward; they weren't hiding anything.
You know that feeling when you've read a book and you're completely engulfed in it, you don't notice the passage of time? There could be a literal storm pouring outside and you would barely notice it, because you couldn't stop flipping the pages. Someone could walk past you, playing the theme to Star Wars on a tuba, while wearing a tie-dyed gnome costume with reindeer antlers firmly on their head and you wouldn't have the slightest idea because, holy shit, I can't put this book down!? I know you guys know what I'm talking about and The Girls is that book for me.
Impossible to put down. Excellent pace. Phenomenal writing. Complex characters. Thrills. Quotable to the highest degree. A quality I noticed about The Girls right away was that it was otherworldly. It takes your breath away. Something about it causes your heart to speed up and down and go all over the place in the most deliciously maddening of ways. It can chill you to the bone just as much as it could warm you up. The Girls is haunting, it is everything. It is familiar and incredibly put together.
God, I loved it.
Set in the sweltering heat of a California summer in 1969, we're introduced to a split narration of our leading lady: Evie Boyd. Past and present collide in a way that weaves a story together of infatuation, questioning youth and a group of mysterious/intriguing girls. Based loosely on the infamous Manson Girls, Evie finds herself wrapped up in a world so far-out of her own. There's something equal parts terrifying and thrilling when it comes down to this set-up and readers will find history tangled in these plots. Cline moves through her story quickly and dangles everything in front of you from the get-go, putting readers in the front seat of a wild and questionable coming of age story.
Evie is compelling and striking in a way that is lacking in literature--you're both sympathetic towards her and unsympathetic. She is very much so a fourteen year old girl; lonely and testing the waters of a teenage rebellion. We see that spark from her even in the early parts of the book, seeking normalcy in her best-friend Connie. We see she is normal but longs for something else. It's an itch that is only beginning, but when she first catches a glimpse of the girls, it grows. From the moment gets involved with the girls and their charismatic, and chilling, leader, you know where the story is going to go.
Even in the moments she's at home and feels something for the group of people, you know she isn't going to be much of a part of the events that unfold not unlike those murders we've all heard of. There is an undeniable darkness in her, whether that be from curiosity or rage, but it's the sort that is merely human. That's what makes me love Evie and her narration--she changes, she feels, she is far from perfect. I liked the climax of it all. When she came to stay with the family and how they lived freely, how things slowly begin to unravel and in the days after they commit an unthinkable act of violence (that Evie wasn't part of) it was like pieces were put together.
I thought that the dynamic between Evie and Suzanne was incredibly unique and dark and just overall a gift to read. It was interesting seeing how Cline portrayed it, from the moment they met until that fateful night in which Suzanne seemingly pushes Evie away and abandons her elsewhere. I think that there are a lot of pluses when it comes to how Cline spins the bonds of women but Suzanne and Evie and their relationship is breathtaking and strange and every bit intriguing as you'd hoped. I wanted to hear more.
Overall, The Girls is a wild ride. One of the best novels of the year and thoroughly unforgettable. I think it's one of my favorites of all time, really. Ah! This novel is something I will be thinking and talking about in the weeks to come. All the layers make for a series of events readers won't be able to look away from and won't soon forget. I loved it so, so, so much and think that it will resonate well with readers looking for something dark and intriguing. Fans of NBC's Aquarius will adore this one.
Recommended reading with: a cool drink, a lot of sunshine and something to jot down quotes. Let me be straight forward: The Girls is highly quotable. I do not say this lightly. I am pretty sure I will need a single notebook just for notes on this one.