Book: The Girls
Author: Emma Cline
Genre: Coming of age
Page Count: 369 (large print edition)
If you are anything like me, you most likely love to learn about past decades from the 20th century. The coming of age book I reviewed – The Girls – seems like the perfect 1960’s book, only it unfortunately was not. I give this book 3 s
First things first, a little synopsis would help. This book is based on a middle-aged woman – Evie Boyd – who is in a rut of sorts when she begins to reminisce about her past life in a cult when she was 14. As her 14-year-old self, she analyses her relationships, emotions, and feelings, while also resurfacing her own present middle-aged thoughts. The book covers her entrance into the cult, the goings-on while she is a member, and the cult’s aftermath.
The first part I appreciated was the description of each character’s distinct personality. There was a decent amount of characters between the present reality and her flashbacks; however, I could always differentiate between the characters when their names were mentioned. One character, Helen, was known for her little girl voice and another character, Roos, was known for her toddler constantly running amok. This really helped me understand who was who, without taking any time to go back and reread the character’s particular identity. Clearly defined characters can be extremely hard to achieve in novels, yet Cline did a fantastic job.
Another great part about this book is the way Cline took a coming of age story and turned it into an adult read. Most coming of age stories are for teenagers themselves, but this book was able to be nostalgic in the ways it touched on topics about appearance, teenage boys, and first crushes. I do believe the subplot (when Evie is an adult woman) is a little forced though. I think in ways it added to the comprehension of Evie’s personality and her mental changes, but it also felt slightly out of place.
Lastly, I enjoyed that Cline took inspiration from real-life cult initiation and the violence found in cults. This was intriguing because it felt realistic at certain moments, making me reflect on what I know about the Manson Family Cult in the 1960’s.
As someone who also finds the psychology of cults fascinating, I immediately added this book to my Christmas list. I was hyped about reading the downfall of Evie’s mental state, as she soon began to believe a cult was a valid replacement for her mundane life. This is where things did not match up with my expectations. I love character development, to me, that makes or breaks a book. This book described tidbits about Evie’s life, especially in the beginning chapters. In those chapters I felt emotionally close to Evie, I could even understand where she was coming from; however, things changed fast. Once Evie was in the cult I think the character development became a cliche, with stereotypical descriptions taking over.
I do not enjoy too much action, but I do enjoy suspense. This book; however, lacked all suspense and all action. I either knew what was coming, or was not surprised by what did happen. I do not think this has to do with my prior knowledge about cults, but the fact that the writing led a series of obvious and drawn out events. I believe without emotionally stimulating writing, the suspense level can fall flat, which is what happened here.
By the time the ending rolled around, I was sure something big was about to happen. Or, so the author led me to believe that. The story’s only question was: why did Evie not help the rest of the cult kill the musician’s family and their house staff? The question drove me to keep reading, but the issue is that the answer was written in one chapter – cutting the suspense and the emotional rendezvous I usually enjoy – into a quick blip of the book.
Overall, I think this book was missing something. It started out strong, allowing me to read 100 pages relatively quickly. As the book progressed, I noticed the writing became surface level, making me less interested.
***Photo Cred: Random House Book Cover