REVIEW: The Girls by Emma Cline
THE GIRLS by Emma Cline makes me question the world around us. I didn’t like the characters or even empathize with them, yet they drew me into their bizarre world, making me wonder what would happen next. Credit to the author for making me curious enough beyond what made me very uncomfortable.
Our fascination with why, or how, evil exists, draws us to stories such as this one. I didn’t identify with the characters because they were selfish, depraved and imbalanced individuals. Even the main character, Evie, who I expected to connect with as a lost adolescent, made me wonder about her involvement in a hideous crime. I can’t condone any of their behavior as I feel as though they had enough opportunities to turn their lives around.
I requested this book for review because I thought it would be interesting to walk through the 1960s and the cult mentality of those times. Haven’t we all wondered what draws some people to communal living? Is it the promise of freedom that’s really a prison, binding the individual mentally to the group through psycho-babble that seems to make sense at the time?
This book contains realistic passages that give a 1960s’ vibe, enough so that I could easily visualize most of the scenes. But there are also a lot of disturbing parts that I really didn’t want to visualize. There were details that I would have rather never read, mixed in with an interesting story. What bothered me the most, beyond the disrespect for life by the cult group as a whole, were the sexual encounters that made the love of the main character seem dirty and unrealized. I think Evie’s young age was the most disturbing. I understood her curiosity, but what I didn’t understand were the adults who, in my opinion, abused her. Even though Evie professes love, I could never understand why. Reading about her “coming of age” made me feel uncomfortable, as well as cringe for the horror of it.
Author Emma Cline looks into the psyche of a mentally unstable teenager and portrays every aspect of her personality as warped as you can imagine. It’s almost as if Evie is stumbling around in a dream state, relishing her history with murderers, feeling lost when she’s not with them. When you stop and think about Evie, it can give you the creeps and make you wonder how her future ever moves beyond her experience. Even as an adult, I felt Evie wavering between what she knew was right and wrong, still undecided as to who she really was.
A fictional tale based on cult history, THE GIRLS is written in a literary style that is sometimes engaging but also confusing. I got used to the fragmented sentences that seemed to almost have a rhythm in their placement. I’m assuming that the odd choice of words was a way to make the narrator seem imbalanced, so that was successful, but it made the book hard to read, so I stalled several times. About midway through, my curiosity got the best of me and I pushed to the end because I hoped the characters would get what they deserved. I was hopeful for Evie to survive her ordeal, even though I wasn’t sure she’d ever be right. After reading this novel, I better understand the power of the cult and how it draws in lost individuals. In my opinion, this story wouldn’t have been as off-putting if the main character was closer to legal age. I know that’s not right, either, but it just pushed the cult’s depravity even further in my mind.
Will author Emma Cline give us more shocking fiction in the future, or will she surprise us in some other way? Her ability is intriguing – I just wish it leaned more in an optimistic direction. After reading this story, I appreciate my happy-ever-after zone more than ever. Hold your loved ones close, especially your children who deserve our protection from evil.
Review by Dorine, courtesy of The Zest Quest. Digital copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
The Girls by Emma Cline
Category: Literary Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Random House (June 14, 2016)
Rated 3 out of 5
What books about the 1960s do you recommend?