The Girls | Emma Cline
I have to admit: I fell hard for the pre-puiblication buzz that surrounded The Girls: A Novel. The cover is awesome and I am a sucker for books that are dark and twisty. The story centers on Evie Boyd- a 14 year old that struggling to find herself in the midst of her parents’ broken marriage and her fragile friendship with her childhood best friend. She becomes captivated with Suzanne, the ringleader in a soon to be famous cult, and finds herself in unthinkable situations. The story is fiction but borrows heavily from the Manson murders. I listened to the episodes that covered the Manson murders in the podcast You Must Remember This soon before reading this novel, and I appreciated having the context.
This book surprised me. Not in the sense that it had a lot of plot twists, but moreso in the sense that the plot did not center on the murders, but on the girls that make up this Manson-like character’s cult. I thought Cline captured the essence of being an adolescent girl in ways that were complicated yet relatable. The most painful/beautiful quote: “All the time that I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you- the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.” Damn.
The story is narrated by Evie and she tells her story now her story back “on the ranch”, and the book alternates between the two. The women and girls in this novel are starved for attention and validation. Evie as a 14 year old, Evie again as an adult, her mother, Suzanne, the other girls in the cult. Even Evie’s feminist and young step-mother hides things from her partner, not “wanting to get grounded” for smoking pot.
The writing style is a bit highfalutin and it took a bit for me to get used to. It’s an odd juxtaposition- the refined writing and the dark story line- I could never rectify the two. The author heavily relies on simile and metaphor, and despite the interesting plot I found myself wishing that more was happening. The ending comes quickly and there’s a clear resolution, but the conclusion was underwhelming as Evie herself. That said, I think that’s the point. She spent so much time observing others and trying to act how she thought she was supposed to, that she was never able to define herself outside the context of the cult. This is a debut novel and it’s really well written, but it didn’t give me the thrill I was hoping for.
If you like female narrators and a sophisticated tone and imagery then you might like this one. If you’re looking for a fast paced, plot driven book, then this one might be a pass. I gave it a 3.5 out of 5, since it wasn’t the psychological thriller I was hoping it would be.
Anyone else read it? Would love to know your thoughts!