[note note_color=”#ff342a” text_color=”#ffffff”]The Girls by Emma Cline • June 14, 2016 • Random House • Traded with Leah
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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.[/note]
First sentence: “I looked up because of the laughter, and kept looking because of the girls.”
The Girls is…a wild trip.
Ever wonder what it’s like to get a perfect portrayal of the desperation, desire, and vulnerability that a teenager girl feels? The Girls introduces you to Evie Boyd, a fourteen year old girl living in Northern California during 1969, who yearns for the carelessness and companionship that she sees other girls having. Evie becomes infatuated by the long-haired older girl, Suzanne, who exudes every trait and personality Evie lacks and wants for herself, and joins a cult (think Charles Manson), throwing her into a world that is miles away from what she’s used to.
THE THINGS THE GIRLS DO SO WELL
- It focuses on the girls.
It’s called The Girls for a reason. It’s all about them. Their life, their feelings, their desires, their everything.
When you’re given a book that has a cult in it, you expect the female character to become infatuated with the charismatic male cult leader, right? But in The Girls, it’s not the men or boys at the focus of their affection or obsession. Evie Boyd is more infatuated with the beautiful older girl, Suzanne Parker, which I thought was an absolutely wonderful and different way of presenting this type of story of a girl coming to age. The Girls explores so much of what it is like to be a girl to great accuracy from every monstrous thought to yearning actions.
- Cline captures the desperation, desire, and vulnerability that teenager girls feels perfectly.
A teenager girl’s feelings can get so overwhelming. Everything feels 100 times worse than it really is. For Evie, she experiences things that many girls go through in their formative teenage years. She’s at an age where she wants so much of what people have that she lacks—confidence, freedom, love, attention—and she sees Suzanne embodying that. Girls like Evie just want a place to belong, love that she lacks, people who actually care about her, and they’ll go looking wherever they can find it. They’ll change themselves accordingly to fit the situation. Evie’ll do whatever it takes, even if it means joining a cult. It doesn’t matter this book is set in 1969. Everything that happens, readers will be able to feel and relate to the desperation, the desire, the vulnerability Evie experiences.
You can feel the attraction Evie has for Suzanne.
The attraction (or you can call this an obsession) is palpable. Whatever it is, it’s a bit ambiguous. Her feelings on Suzanne aren’t entirely platonic or romantic. (You can totally argue this is a fucked up one-sided love story.) It’s a blend that Evie can’t even identify herself. Suzanne is the ultimate ideal girl for Evie. She’s somebody Evie can look up to, try to be like, be validated by because she embodies everything that Evie yearns to be. Evie will do whatever to impress Suzanne. What person isn’t attracted to people who have the power, confidence, and everything that you lack?
- The Girls will make you uncomfortable.
What The Girls does will make you feel uncomfortable because of its pure and painful accuracy of what goes through a girl’s mind. From the way Evie feels about boys or other girls to her thoughts being sexualized, it’s not hard to imagine that this is what girls think and do. It’s like taking look into my head or my friend’s head when we were teenagers. It somehow gets under your skin because the emotions and thoughts Evie experiences show you how terrible a girl’s mind can be at that age.
Should you read The Girls? Yes. The Girls is not about cult life or the murders that happened (it’s just a small part of the story); it’s about girls and their desire, their desperation, their obsession, their vulnerability, their everything to fit into a world they do not feel like they belong in. This book may be set in 1969, but everything Evie Boyd experiences span any time period; it’s painful accurate to what all girls must’ve felt when they were teenagers.