“That was part of being a girl–you were resigned to whatever feedback you’d get. If you got mad, you were crazy, and if you didn’t react, you were a bitch. The only thing you could do was smile from the corner they’d backed you into. Implicate yourself in the joke even if the joke was always on you.”
This is another one of my recent pick-ups from my library at school. I saw that it was on the Goodreads choice awards, but was also drawn to it because of its cover. It’s basically a twist off the story of Charles Manson and the Manson Family, who killed a total of eight people. Basically, it came to be this type of cult, mostly women, all obsessed with Charles Manson. The Girls is categorized as both Adult Fiction and Historical Fiction, but I would also name it a Psychological Thriller. Some of the elements are very surreal and almost terrifying in the way that you know that this really happened.
My Rating: A
Goodreads Synopsis: 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, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.
My Thoughts: This book was right up my ally. I have fascination with people and why they make the decisions that I do, especially extreme ones like murder. I am not justifying any type of crime, whatsoever, but this does pique my interest. (I am also a big fan of the Jasper Dent series, which is about Serial Killers, but anyway). Evie, the main character of this novel, is fourteen. This is probably the most horrifying part, that someone who young could become so disenfranchised from her parents, her friends and society. She falls hard for this girl named Suzanne, who is obsessed with the leader of the cult, a man named Russell. Suzanne is also very closed off, almost like she is scared to trust anyone, like she’s been hurt too many times. Evie is completely obsessed with her, she wants to protect her, to be with her, but also sometimes to be her. It’s a complex and fascinating relationship because this fourteen-year-old who has no one else is willing to go to any lengths to please this older, far more sexual woman.
What I Liked: This book is so creepy, like I was honestly pretty freaked out for most of it. It jumps back and forth between the present and the past. And when we are in the present, we interact with another young girl, putting herself in dangerous situations in order to please a man. I think the point of this is to show us that it is entirely possible for a situation like the one Evie went through all those years ago to happen again. It parallels a lot of the Manson Family and the murders they committed, the twisted hive mentality and the pressure to do drugs. The culture gap between now and the 1960s is astounding, Evie is gone for days at a time and her mother doesn’t even seem to notice. Apparently this was typical of the time.
There is also a heavy theme of women only being used as sexual objects. Manson and Russell both kept as astounding amount of women in his numbers, using them for sex whenever he pleased. Evie, who is just fourteen, is also pulled into this. I think part of the novel is analyzing how this could happen to someone, how they could be pulled into and submit to this cult like atmosphere, and why it mostly appealed to women. Most of the women in the cult want to feel some essence of control by chosing this life. They feel rejected or without a place in normal society. In reality, they have no power once they are under Russell’s spell even if they do find a spot for them in this cult dynamic.
The Girls is extremely well-written. It jumps from past to present, but connects the two by a series of unsettling events. The retrospect of Evie is her realizing where she went wrong, exactly pinpointing specific moments as she looks back. It was honestly a great read.
What I Disliked: There are a lot of drugs. Like hardcore drugs. And a fourteen-year-old is doing most of them. I am very very very much against most of that ethically, so that part really bothered me. There is also a lot of sexual elements. Most of the time, not good ones. Its revolves a lot around sexual violence and the objectification of woman. Basically the book is one big trigger warning, and I want to warn people of that before they jump into it.
Would I recommend it? Yes, but proceed with caution. It can be very creepy and frightening especially with its realistic elements. It’s not a fluffy love story.
Is this book on your to-read list? Would you ever join a cult? Does the hive mentality promote acts of violence?