Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.
I was reading Helter Skelter, the account of the Manson Family murders written by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, when I met my husband. I remember this because we spent quite a bit of time talking about it and the investigation that first night. Then he bought me end of night pizza and the rest is history.
When I heard about Emma Cline’s The Girls, a fictional account of a teenaged girl who gets mixed up with a Manson Famliy-esque cult, I wanted to read it as soon as possible.
Evie Boyd is the lonely daughter of recently divorced parents. Her father has moved into an apartment with his much younger girlfriend while her mother embarks on a journey of self discovery that involves working out, new friends and boyfriends. Money isn’t a worry – Evie’s grandmother was a famous movie star and Evie and her mother still live on that money. But when Evie and her best friend have a fight, Evie is cut adrift, realizing that she doesn’t actually have any other friends.
Which is when she meets the girls who are a part of Russell’s world. She notices them because of their hair to start – they are waif-like, with long hair, and they move through town like they are separate from everything. Evie wants to get to know them and ingratiates herself with their leader.
What follows is a tale of young adolescent girlhood. Evie is unsure of herself, of her place in the world. She is curious about but vaguely disgusted by sex. She wants to belong, wants to be a part of the inner circle at the ranch where these other lost souls have found their place but something is always pulling her just shy of its heart.
This book is written by a superstar. I can only imagine what else Cline is capable of. This book so perfectly captures that place when you’re 14 and everything is painted in shades of angst, loneliness and self-doubt. It wasn’t the cult-heavy book I thought I was getting – Evie is, after all, always on the periphery of those events – but I liked the internal life of a 14 year old girl against the backdrop of a certain time, a fictional reckoning of a summer when the unthinkable happened. I think it was particularly effective that adult Evie is looking back on that time, seeing herself as she was, through the lens of what happened later. Adult Evie is clearly haunted by what happened, ashamed of how close she got to participating in the events of that night.
This feels like a summer filled with the voices of young women and The Girls justifiably has a spot in the sun.