“The Girls” Review

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Author: Emma Cline
Genre: Historical Fiction
Released: June 14, 2016
Purchase: Bookshop / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis:

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.

Review:

The Girls deal with an era that I’m not very familiar with – the 60’s. The extent of my knowledge extends to pop culture references of flower power, hippies, and Volkswagon vans. But having watched a few documentaries regarding cults in recent times, the synopsis of The Girls intrigued me.

Right off the bat, I was drawn in by Emma Cline’s prose that continues throughout the book. Her sentences, short and sweet, yet so descriptive, and it immediately takes me to the ’60s with ease. We follow the story of Evie Boyd in her older days as she reflects back to the time when she was part of a cult. As a fourteen year old girl living in San Francisco, a child to divorced parents, and finding herself neglected in one way or another, Evie finds comfort in a new friend, as well as a new group, over that particular summer.

While the backdrop of The Girls is the cult (based on the Manson cult), it is ultimately a coming-of-age story. The mind of an adolescent whose knowledge of the world is limited to their immediate surroundings. The reasoning and justification Boyd took to join the cult – to have belonging, to be seen.

There are many integral characters that help shape Evie Boyd’s characterization, but none as integral as Suzanne, the person that ultimately is the reason for Evie to be a part of the cult. Even after their first encounter at a park, Evie suddenly finds herself sexually awakened in a different way than she had ever been. She’s surprised to find herself feeling this way towards a girl, and couldn’t help but be magnetized towards Suzanne.

Interestingly, while the book centers around the Manson-like cult, Russell, the head the cult, mostly serves as a background character. He is there, helping the plot move along, but Evie’s interaction with him is short and limited. In that sense, while we get a glimpse of the daily life of the cult, as well as some of the psychological reasoning, it is not the whole book.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I was very pleased with The Girls and if learning more about cults or being an adolescent in the 60s is something that intrigues you, this might be a great read! It was a fairly fast-paced book that would be a perfect spring / summer read to coincide with Evie’s own summer.

Purchase Books:
Bookshop / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

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