Synopsis (From GoodReads):
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.
When the book came out, the publicity for The Girls hinted at an inside look into a late 1960's cult (much like Charles Manson's "Family"). I was really interested in trying to understand why young teen girls would be involved with such a group. But as I read The Girls, by Emma Cline, all I got was a depressing story of repeated victimization. It was a tough read that did not give me much insight.
What I Liked:Setting:
I did feel that the author captured the essence of the 1960's, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area. Although I was a young kid, I remember that time well. The young adults of the time were trying their best to be shocking to the adults. Long hair, unwashed bodies, wild clothes, all of these were signals that people were rebelling against the norm of the times. This book gets the feel of the time right.
Evie is an outsider who is ripe for joining this new, perhaps dangerous, way of thinking. The book shows how enticing the group must have been to Evie. Everywhere they go, the girls in the group act invincible.
What I Didn't Like:Evie:
As much as I was rooting for Evie and understood how lost she was during her transition from child to adult, I didn't feel her character had any growth. The book is told in flashbacks as an older Evie (possibly in her 40's or 50's?) recalls her involvement with a notorious 60's group who committed an horrific murder. She herself did not participate in the crime that is the climax of the book. But for a random incident, Evie considers if she would have followed through with what the others in her group did. You never learn how Evie's life turned out or how she even feels about what happened with the group.
Normalization of Rape:
Throughout the book, as Evie recalls terrible moments of victimization, she doesn't seem to see these situations as abuse. She doesn't seem to learn to be weary of the others in the group, even after she is abused.
Also, it was strange, and upsetting, reading about essentially rapes. The older Evie reminisces about her fourteen-year old self being used by the much older men (and women) in the group for sexual pleasure. This is rape. But even as an adult, she doesn't see it that way.
The ending of the book goes on to mention further abuse as the normal course of one's life. This left me angry and deflated that Evie didn't become stronger. She just accepted that this was how life was.
Release Date: June 14th, 2016
Genre: General Fiction
Source: Public Library
Format: Audio Book
Recommendation: I cannot recommend this book. The depictions of the rapes of a fourteen-year old as normal were too much for me.