The Girls by Emma Cline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There were parts of this story I really liked… things I could identify with. 14-year-old Evie was totally desperate for acceptance, to find a place she fit in. The perspective on her younger self from her older point of view was interesting, and being in my 30s there are a few things I would like to teach my past self. The internal narrative was well done here, describing all the tortures young girls put themselves through, trying so hard to figure out their place in the world. How is she supposed to act? Does she exist only as a reflection of those around her? What is attraction? Desire? Love?
But there were parts that fell very much flat. Her time with the cult felt forced and unrelatable. At first, I could see how Evie was drawn to Suzanne and her self-confidence, but the experimentation with drugs and sex were glossed over. If a young teen is so obsessed with relationships and her place at “the ranch” why weren’t these aspects analyzed a little more? Suzanne was the only one of “the girls” with any depth – the rest, including the cult leader, were like background noise to the inner workings of a self-centered narrator. Maybe my lack of familiarity with Charles Manson and the murders this story is based on is at fault here, but regardless, a book should tell its own story.
The rest of Evie’s life was underwhelming. There was no closure… life during and after boarding school are presented as an afterthought. It’s noted that her name is mentioned in some accounts, enough that her present-day visitors are aware of her involvement, but interactions with police and journalists are left assumed. As a whole, the present-day exchange could have been much more fulfilling. Evie didn’t grow or change, and her adult self still craves attention and sees how easy (or even rewarding) it is to please the boys.
Despite a three-star review, I would still recommend this to someone that enjoys historical fiction – for a one-person take on a cult atmosphere.
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