Contemporary, Drama, Historical Fiction

The Girls by Emma Cline

I’ve only read one book about a cult, and it was more about the aftermath of it and the resurrection of it. This novel focused on the perspective of one girl who joins a cult, and how that experience changed her. Going into this novel, I had no idea what to make of it, and I didn’t know what kind of tone the author would use. I started reading it on my 2-hour bus ride back to my university residence, and by the end of the journey, I had finished the book. So let me just leave it at that and begin my review.

Evie Boyd is a lonely teenager living in California during the end of the 1960s. With her father out of the picture, and her mother fixated on changing herself, Evie has nowhere she belongs. But then she sees a group of girls at the park and is immediately drawn to their carefree behaviour, and their freedom. A mesmerizing older girl named Suzanne smiles at Evie, and that is all it takes to make Evie want to join this group. She is invited to join the circle of a soon-to-be-infamous cult with its charismatic leader. As Evie spends more time away from her home and her regular life, and as her obsession with Suzanne and the cult intensifies, Evie feels like she finally belongs. But she could never have imagined how close she is to unthinkable violence, and how it will change their lives forever.

This book was a very interesting read to me. Evie is more of a narrator than a protagonist, as she recounts the terrible events that took place within that cult. The true main character seems to be Suzanne, who Evie admires and loves. However, the magnetism that Suzanne apparently embodies isn’t really that evident to the reader, and I was left wondering why Evie was so fixated on her. However, I still found it interesting to see how their friendship evolved. The other characters weren’t that important, and they stayed on the sidelines for the most part, which was fine by me. I just wanted to get to the juicy creepy stuff! That was the other interesting thing about this story – the author already tells you how it is going to end. Right away, you know that the cult is involved in the brutal killing of innocent people. The story took quite a long while to get to that point, perhaps because it was told from the perspective of a teenage girl who is more focused on fitting in and having a friend than in reading the turbulent situation around her. That put me off a bit because it made the crime seem completely random, when in reality it had been building up to this crime. I wish that there had been more of an emphasis on the cult scene; the author had a couple of parts where she mentioned ritualistic practices but for the most part, the cult appeared to be a place for runaways to just do drugs, have sex, and shirk all responsibility. That was a bit of a disappointment for me, because I really wanted to feel the eerie essence of it all, and the mass euphoria that is usually attributed to cults. One thing that I really did not enjoy about this novel was how the ending was described. Evie was not a participant in the violent killings, so every sentence that describes it begins with “I imagine” or “I believe”, or something else that just shows that she is just as clueless as the reader. I don’t want to read about what she “supposes” had happened, I want to ACTUALLY know! That was the only major flaw I found.

I know I seem to only have negative comments to say, but overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It was slow-paced, but not painfully slow, and the perspective of Evie was an interesting one, that highlighted our innate desire to belong to someone or something, regardless of how dangerous or stupid it might be. It depicted the flaws of teenage thinking, where teenagers believe they are invincible, always right, and that no one understand them. It explores the world of sex and drugs and the need to believe in something bigger than yourself. And most importantly, this novel was about friendship, and all of the different types of love that someone can feel for another person. I hope that you will all give it a shot, and come up with your own opinions about this book.

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