drugs

Review: The Girls by Emma Cline

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The Girls by Emma Cline

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Girls—their vulnerability, strength, and passion to belong—are at the heart of this stunning first novel for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.

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.

Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction—and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become.

**Disclaimer: Copy received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

The Girls is the story of Evie, a 14-year-old recovering from her parents’ divorce and falling out with her best friend, Connie. The year is 1969, and soon she is enthralled by Suzanne, an older girl who lives at a rundown ranch in poverty, with a few other girls, all of whom worship one man, Russell. Based on the story of Charles Manson and the Manson girls, this is a hard-hitting book of a childhood filled with sex, drugs, and cult worship, and ultimately, murder. This isn’t just a story though – it is also a social commentary on the role of girls and the expectations flung upon them.

Emma Cline’s writing is beautiful, full of metaphors and insights that make this world so clear. This book is a little intellectual (definitely not Young Adult though told through a teenager’s eyes), and takes place in two timestreams – present day, where Evie is ambling along, imposed upon by a teenage couple who are up to no good, and California, 1969, when Evie was enthralled by a cult. The events of 1969 still clearly haunt her to this day, and so this story is really the one of her making – how her actions as a girl have impacted on her entire life.

This is the second Manson-based book I’ve read this month(!) – the other being My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger (review here) which is a YA book of a similar dark tone, but this time about a teenager researching the Manson girls. This book is a lot grittier (it is an adult novel, after all), and gets a little more into the action of this story, told by someone who was actually there.

The Girls is a dark summer read, dancing with sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, and with flecks of a real-life horror that gripped America.

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Annalise x

Review: The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Problem with Forever
The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: Received from the Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

I love Jennifer L. Armentrout books (in particular, the Lux series which are wonderful), and so when I saw her new contemporary novel, The Problem With Forever, on NetGalley, I knew I had to pick it up.

Mallory “Mouse” Dodge suffers from PTSD after a traumatic, abusive childhood with dreadful foster parents, where she was protected only by her foster brother, Rider. After an incident, Mallory and Rider were separated, and Mallory found loving and understanding foster parents in Carl and Rosa, two doctors who lost a daughter to natural causes years ago. After three years of homeschooling, Mallory decides she wants to go to school for her senior year to gear her up for the social pressures of attending college. Battling her social anxiety and speech difficulties as she goes to school, she soon bumps into a familiar face…

This book was such a quick read for me, and unlike any book I’ve ever read – it’s a romance, perhaps even a twist on Romeo & Juliet. Rider and Mallory moved into two very different backgrounds, united by a past that they’re both trying to move on from. Mallory is set on college, perhaps even medical school, whilst Rider really isn’t too bothered about school – he hardly even does his homework, too focussed on his art. I liked this unconventional love interest, and the subplot that is his new family and their lives. However, Mallory really does try to mould him into a ‘better’, more academic person – which is understandable but kind of grated on me – he was an interesting character to begin with, and doesn’t need to be pushed into the typical love interest mould.

Most of the characters were developed and had full back stories – especially Mallory and Rider – but I felt Mallory’s school friends were way under-developed, something chronic in YA. Mallory’s best friend Ainsley, however, was fun and had her own storyline – which I believe will be explored further in the next book.

Whilst this story definitely stands out from most romances, it was actually the romance that didn’t quite gel for me. I know a lot of people loved it. It reminded me a lot of my ex-boyfriend in a cringey way (my ex-boyfriend was VERY cringey). It was not discussed at all that Mallory and Rider were foster siblings, and were brought up, for ten years, as brother and sister (albeit in a very messed up household). This was particularly surprising to me as Mallory’s parents do object to the romance (I loved that the parents were realistic and got involved!).

There are some really dark and serious topics in this book (child abuse, drugs, grief, loss, the poor/rich divide,etc.) which I really did like – but the romance and the characters just didn’t click for me. This book has all the ingredients for a great YA novel, but the execution didn’t do it for me – but it did for a lot of other people.

A hard-hitting romance with dark tones but ultimately, a story of survival.
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What did you think of The Problem With Forever? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks!

Annalise x