Emma Cline’s debut novel The Girls was the “it” book of summer 2016, and, yes, it did take me three years to finally pick it up. Moody and dramatic, very much like the first season of True Detective, it follows fourteen year-old Evie Boyd’s coming-of-age as she is drawn into a dangerous, Manson-esque cult. Told with Cline’s spellbinding prose, The Girls is an irresistible, compelling read that begs to be finished in one sitting.
From the back cover:
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, teenager Evie Boyd sees a group of girls in the park and is immediately struck by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. The group’s 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.
“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.”
-Emma Cline, The Girls
The Girls takes place in the 1960s, but it may as well occur in modern day; the focus is not on the historical time period but on Evie’s coming-of-age, a universal experience for adolescent girls whether today or fifty years ago. Time indicators like music, film, and technology are rarely, if ever, mentioned to set the book in the 60s, which makes The Girls all the better: Evie’s story seems less like an entertaining anecdote and more like the real deal.
Even better than the story itself is the language through which it’s told. Cline’s words are as mesmerizing as the cult her protagonist joins; like Evie, once I was in, I was hooked. As soon as I got past to her unusual use of language in the first few pages, the novel became addictive. Though not much happens in terms of plot, The Girls is still a fast-paced read, psychological thriller meets bildungsroman. I’d highly, highly recommend The Girls for a quick summer read!
Find this book on Goodreads.