Book Review: Emma Cline, The Girls

Poor girls. The world fattens them on the promise of love. How badly they need it, and how little most of them will ever get. The treacled pop songs, the dresses described in the catalogs with words like ‘sunset’ and ‘Paris’. Then the dreams are taken away with such violent force; the hand wrenching the buttons of the jeans, nobody looking at the man shouting at his girlfriend on the bus.

A fantastic debut novel from a promising new author; I could not put this book down. Fourteen year old Evie Boyd flings herself into the summer of love with all the emotions of a girl on the cusp of adulthood who never stops to think about what comes next, only what’s here now. Already on a path of self destruction following the separation of her parents, Evie only too eagerly sheds her past behind like snake skin as she becomes absorbed in the orbit of Suzanne, one of the girls Evie yearns to be, who herself has become absorbed in the orbit of a dangerous, manipulative cult leader. (Yes, that man, that cult.) As she becomes accustomed to the violence of everyday life on the ranch, Evie becomes more and more detached from the real world, leaving herself behind with it.

With keen insight and stunning details, Cline did an excellent job of plunging me straight back to girlhood, all its sharp edges and blunt revelations and its cool, calculated stripping away of childhood. When you long so hard to be an adult even after that harsh reality begins to glimmer into focus. All of those firsts: the good and the bad. And the horrible. The cruelty of other girls, that only other girls will ever understand. Ugly and brutal and real. So real. I can’t wait for Cline’s next offering.

We had been with the men, we had let them do what they wanted. But they would never know the parts of ourselves that we hid from them – they would never sense the lack or even know there was something more they should be looking for.

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