I have hungrily devoured books with dark and twisty female characters these last few months, but The Girls by Emma Cline is a whole new animal.
The story is about a fourteen-year-old girl named Evie Boyd who is enamored with a group of girls she sees one day in the park, particularly one girl named Suzanne. Soon Evie finds herself wrapped up with with Russell and his followers on the ranch.
This is one of the hot reads of the summer and, to be honest, I had a bit of a hard time getting into it. I think part of it is because it is told from an older Evie’s perspective.
Throughout the book, Evie is looking back at her experience with Russell and “the girls” through the lens of someone who knows how it will all end. The book is fourteen-year-old Evie’s story but instead of being in the mindset of a fourteen-year-old girl we get the perspective of someone who is older, and wiser, and fascinated with the Queen Bee of the group named Suzanne.
The spell is broken between the parks as an older Evie talks about staying in a friend’s house. Aside from giving us a view of someone else seeing her outside of the cult, presumably with all of that behind her, these little interjections don’t seem to add to the story.
When I was reading the sections that involved older Evie, I expected something dark and twisty to occur, something to tell us that we shouldn’t accept what we were seeing as the reality.
I wondered if the book would be stronger if we just went along for the ride with fourteen-year-old Evie, without the older and wiser version providing a sobering commentary on what we were reading.
Certain phrases about what the later books would say, how the police photographs look, or commentary about the filthy living conditions at the ranch, took me out of the moment, distanced me from a fourteen-year-old girl I wanted to follow. It felt like these passages were meant to give a sense of foreboding, but they just made the story more predictable.
Now this is where we could debate whether or not Evie is a reliable narrator given that we are told in the first few pages that most books and interviews don’t mention Evie.
The entire time, I have to question if Evie is editing events to make herself more sympathetic to the reader. I wondered if maybe she wasn’t telling us the whole truth and maybe there was something she was leaving out.
On the positive side the book had some beautiful lyrical passages with details that set the time and place really well. Cline’s description of the ranch, her recount of Russell and his followers were enthralling.
The one large critique I have, is that I think the narrative lens of older Evie wasn’t really needed. I don’t know that she added anything to the story other than her wiser insights.
There is no doubt in my mind that this book is perfect for a certain audience. This book is inspired by the Mansion Family, there is no denying that.
I have read other reviews on GoodReads and seen a couple of BookTube that make it sound like if you read Helter Skelter and have more than a base knowledge of the Manson Family (like me) this book will grab you.
Sad to say, it didn’t have the same effect on me.
While this book’s plot and subject matter may not be to my liking I did enjoy the writing and I found myself highlighting many passages in this book.
For this reason, I am looking forward to reading what Emma Cline comes out with next.
FINAL RATING: 3 Stars