Title: Wilder Girls
Author: Rory Power
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page #: 353
Genre: Young Adult, Apocalyptic, Survival, LGBTQIA+
Age Recommendation: 13+
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
This book, hands down, has one of the best covers out there. I think this book will wind up in a lot of hands simply for its visual presence.
Unfortunately for this book I think it’s sale figures are going to be out of whack as I got a copy for Barnes and Noble before the release date. I later found out that it will be released officially on July 9th 2019. I wouldn’t have grabbed it early as I want the publisher to get accurate data regarding the success of this book and also so that the hype around the book is properly placed. I waited to review it until close to it’s release date so as not to put this out into the world before it has a fair shake.
I wanted desperately to love this. I heard it pitched as an all girls version of Lord of the Flies and while I can see that comparison I don’t think that is quite accurate. The themes of the two books are in no way comparable. The best I can say is that they both follow a group of children on islands. Wilder Girls is focused much more on the characters relationships, it didn’t really dive very deep in a philosophical sense, whereas Lord of the Flies was a criticism of modern society, specifically questioning if manners are inherently human or if we are all just animals somewhere deep down. I see the comparison, I just don’t totally agree with it.
I ended up rating this three stars out of five. It was an okay book. I wanted it to be a fabulous book, but it was okay. This was the sort of book where the entire time I was reading it, I picked up on bits and pieces of stuff that I loved, but it didn’t feel right. There were aspects of it that felt rushed and therefore unsatisfying and that kept pulling me out of the story. I am definitely going to read anything that Rory Power puts out in the future as there was enough in here that I liked and I think the more she writes the better she will become.
This book shines most in its action and its mood. It has such a lovely sense of dread and anxiety about it. You feel like you are with the kids and are fighting for survival while their own bodies betray them. In scenes where the characters are forced to fight I felt like I couldn’t put the book down. Power’s descriptions of The Tox and what it did to the physicality of the girls and the island at large was delightfully grotesque, yet beautiful at the same time.
Unfortunately, it seemed like the character relationships were a bit … rushed or underdeveloped. Which is unfortunate when it comes to a book that focuses so much on the dynamics between characters. I enjoyed the banter between the girls but I also felt like I didn’t get to know any of them very much. Hetty is obsessed with Byatt … Byatt is a bad girl who likes to push her boundaries … and Reese is an orphan? They don’t seem to have much more than those traits and when they do or say things to suggest interest or even import in other things it felt disingenuous rather than opening up the characters.
Another strong aspect of this book was the girl on girl romance. Nothing risque, honestly the treatment of the LGBTQIA+ aspects of this book was tasteful and normalizing. It allowed for confusion and interest and there was no stigma presented on page AT ALL, which honestly was the best part. It is one thing to put a queer romance to the page, it is another to make it seem just as mundane and cute as any other … almost as if … it is just romance!
I think this would be a good read for the younger folks who read YA, although I will throw out the caveat that it does have a fair bit of violence in it so make sure your kid is okay with that. The reason I am saying that it would benefit younger readers more than older is that The Tox is a thinly veiled metaphor for puberty. It would be a great way to engage with a younger reader who feels like … wait for it … their body is not their own (i.e. your arms are too long and your hips are too wide and you feel a bit weird and off sometimes). It is a great way to open up discussion, especially with a fantastic and extreme counter point (at least you don’t have a second spine growing out of your back!)
This isn’t going to be a book for every kid. I think that it could be great for some, but overall it is just okay.
Would I tell you not to buy it? Of course not. I am going to keep it as there will be times when it would be the right book to recommend to someone, I am just unsure that it will be a go to book to hand out at every chance I get. I’m also not positive it will hold the test of time and remain a staple both in the cannon and in young adult literature at large.
I did read this book with my book club and we will be posting a podcast episode with a full discussion. If you don’t mind some plot spoilers and zany antics, then look for the episode on Bibliomancy for Beginners.
It has been a hot minute since I have posted on here. This is partially because I have been struggling in my real world life. I miss talking about books with you all and I hope to jump back on the band wagon. My goal is to post once a week. I don’t know yet if I want to set a specific day, but once a week is going to be the goal.
Talk to you again soon!