STARRED REVIEW
June 2016

A bewitching story of a 1960s summer

By Lori Lansens
Review by
The Girls, Emma Cline’s debut novel, is an exploration of the precariousness of being a teenage girl and the perils of craving acceptance. The 1960s are waning, and Evie Boyd has been carelessly disposed of by her childhood best friend, just as the onset of high school looms. Her parents’ divorce has Evie seeking solace elsewhere, far from her mother’s recently acquired new-age practices and boyfriend. She is also distanced from her father, now residing with his much younger assistant. One lonely afternoon, Evie encounters a group of fascinating strangers at the park: the girls.
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The Girls, Emma Cline’s debut novel, is an exploration of the precariousness of being a teenage girl and the perils of craving acceptance. The 1960s are waning, and Evie Boyd has been carelessly disposed of by her childhood best friend, just as the onset of high school looms. Her parents’ divorce has Evie seeking solace elsewhere, far from her mother’s recently acquired new-age practices and boyfriend. She is also distanced from her father, now residing with his much younger assistant. One lonely afternoon, Evie encounters a group of fascinating strangers at the park: the girls.

Evie is smitten by Suzanne, a disarmingly ethereal yet tough queen bee, and drawn into the world of the ranch she lives on. At its heart is the cult leader, Russell, who collects people as easily as a child collects bugs. Bewitching men and women alike, he oozes a sense of entitlement, a posture that infuses into every interaction that the group has with the outside world. Evie senses danger but becomes entangled regardless, her intense desire for Suzanne leading to the novel’s inevitable, violent conclusion. 

Cline has created a perfect slow burner of a story. Her writing is languid and astute, and the rapport she establishes with her audience is like a cat courting a mouse that it plans to consume. A dual narrative chronicles the account of the summer on the ranch and Evie’s present-day life, and Cline keeps the reader engaged by teasing the details until the tragedy in question takes a starring role at the last moment. If you enjoyed Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, The Girls is your next pick. 

 

This article was originally published in the June 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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The Girls

The Girls

By Lori Lansens
Little, Brown
ISBN 9780316069038

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