I should start this by saying that there are few things I love more than a good coming of age tale, true crime and cults. Ok, ok ok…I love lots of other things; funny cat videos, Doctor Who, Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows, the list is never ending. It’s also important to note that I don’t actually love cults to the point where I would want to be in one. (At least I don’t think so?) It’s more that I will watch or read anything I can find on the subject. For the past seven weeks, I’ve been watching every episode of, “The Path,” on Hulu. This might be partially due to my obsession with Hugh Dancy and Aaron Paul, but I digress.
My point if I have one is, I love all of those things. Therefore when I heard about Emma Cline’s book, “The Girls,” my ears perked up and I scrambled to get my hands on a copy. When I obtained said copy (thank you Net Galley!), I basically did not come up for air for two days except to work, eat and hate watch Scandal. (That’s another story.)
The crime of the story will seem familiar. It’s not identical to the Manson murders but it’s close enough to give you a chill. However, it’s unfair to the excellence of this book to simply compare it to that. This book is so much more.
At it’s heart, this book is about Evie Boyd. She is young and not yet hardened at the beginning. She wants to be loved and she wants to be seen. Basically, she is all of us at 14. The story flashes back and forth between modern day Evie and Evie as a teenager. It’s hard to say which story was more gripping. In the modern part of the story, we see Evie as an older woman, still wrestling with her past told in the flashbacks. My heart broke for both versions of her. I wanted modern day Evie to heal and I wanted teenage Evie to not do the things that would bring herself hurt later even though I knew that was impossible.
Evie is somewhat of a typical teenager when we meet her. She worries about her body, has a love-hate relationship with her best friend and has a crush on that friend’s brother. She meets intoxicating Suzanne, an older girl, who pulls Evie into her world at The Ranch, a world led by the charismatic Russell. It may be Russell who is in charge of everyone else but for Evie, it is Suzanne that she flocks to, dreams of and seeks to connect with. It is Suzanne who will lead her astray.
I won’t say more about the plot. I like to keep my reviews as spoiler free as possible, especially with a book like this where not knowing is part of the magic. I will just say that I found myself thinking of these girls as real people, worrying over them. I was consumed and I was at odds with myself. On one hand, I wanted to read it quickly as I was fully invested. On the other hand, the writing was so beautiful that I found myself going back pages to slow down and reread a line or a paragraph. If this is Emma Cline’s first book, I simply cannot wait to read what she comes up with next. It’s a firecracker of a debut.