Book Review – The Girls by Emma Cline

Title: The GirlsSpring Book Review Button
Author: Emma Cline
ISBN: 9780812998603
No. of Pages: 368
Genre: Literary Fiction
Origins: Random House
Release Date: 14 June 2016


“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.”

My Thoughts: The Girls is Emma Cline’s first novel, and yet there is nothing about the novel to suggest this fact. The entire story exemplifies mature writing. Ms. Cline never beats readers over the head with her themes, her messages, or anything else. Hers is a nuanced story that creates a similar obsession to Evie’s within readers. She also makes the story about more than the cult, for the emotions and experiences Evie has are ones with which most female readers will be familiar. Evie’s story is as much a coming-of-age story as it is an awakening of female awareness and the role society has created for females.

Note that The Girls is an emotional book. We see Evie as a young girl, in the first stages of teenage rebellion, searching for a new identity and craving excitement in a way only teenagers can. We also see Evie as an adult, coming to gripes with her past. Both versions of Evie are raw and desperate; young Evie is desperate for love, while older Evie is desperate for peace. Both are supremely angry, and both leave a significant impression on a reader. In addition, these are not superficial emotions. These are raw, visceral, and barely-contained emotions that can make reading the novel difficult at times because of their intensity.

The emotions are not the only things that are intense. Cult life is consuming; Evie’s relationship with Suzanne is equally so. The duties of the girls on the ranch are disturbing, and it becomes way too clear at just how easy it is to manipulate the right type of person with something as simple as attention, ritual, and rhetoric. Ms. Cline uses this depressing backdrop of abject poverty and hero worship to frame Evie’s past and present, define friendship, and derive some unsettling truths about responsibility of one’s actions.

The Girls is not an easy book to read, and yet the conclusions to which Ms. Cline leads readers are vital. While the action takes place on the ranch and surrounding this cult, the story has universal appeal in regards to its messaging. In fact, the lessons about identity, belonging, cause and effect, and the lasting impact of one intimate relationship are profound and downright chilling. The Girls not only lives up to the hype, it surpasses it and really is one of the must-read books of the year.

The Girls by Emma Cline

BOTTOM LINE: A must-read for 2016

10 Responses to Book Review – The Girls by Emma Cline
  1. Ti
    June 14, 2016 | 1:07 PM

    My sister joined a cult once and you are absolutely right. It’s not hard to manipulate the right kind of person. Quite easy, in fact. I added this to my list when I saw the first review for it but I am uneasy about reading it.

    • Michelle
      June 20, 2016 | 12:47 PM

      I think you will be okay. It is an ANGRY book, and all of the anger is not necessarily towards just the cult. It is the anger and what the main character has to say about the causes of that anger which impressed me the most, and that’s why I think you would be able to read it.

  2. SuziQoregon
    June 14, 2016 | 2:46 PM

    I’m on the library wait list for this one. Everyone I know says it’s great. Looking forward to reading it.

    • Michelle
      June 20, 2016 | 12:47 PM

      It really is. I know my review did not do it justice.

  3. Kailana
    June 15, 2016 | 3:05 PM

    I am really looking forward to this one! My copy should be here soon. 🙂

  4. Jenny @ Reading the End
    June 19, 2016 | 6:58 AM

    Definitely a lot of buzz around this one! I’m low-key obsessed with cults and how they suck people in, so even though I sometimes steer clear of these super-hyped books until the hype cycle pauses (cause otherwise I get mad high expectations and set myself up for failure), I think I’m going to have to check this one out.

    • Michelle
      June 20, 2016 | 1:04 PM

      I do believe this is one that will live up to the hype because I believe there is so much room for diverse reading. Everyone is going to have a slightly different interpretation and appreciation for the book. It isn’t one where people will agree on every detail; I think those types of books are the ones that often fail to live up to the hype. The Girls is definitely not one of those.

  5. susan
    June 19, 2016 | 6:44 PM

    So glad to hear it lives up to the hype! I have a copy & plan to read it soon. Thanks for your word on it. It sounds dark — but hope it’s doable.

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