I don’t remember exactly how I heard about this book. I think I had been purchasing other books and this showed up under the “You may also like…” section. In a book club that I am a part of we always joke how all the mystery/thriller books we like have the word “girl” in them. Examples: Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, The Good Girl (I have yet to read it but it is on my list!). So since this book had the word “girl” in the title I was hoping it would be as good as the others. It did not let me down!
The Girls by Emma Cline is the story of fourteen year old Evie Boyd. It is the summer of 1969 and her last summer before she is shipped off to boarding school. Evie is realizing all the differences between her and her friend Connie. Then one day she sees three girls in the park. For days after she can’t stop thinking of these carefree girls. Finally she meets them and the leader of the girls, Suzanne, invites her back to the ranch they live on. Before Evie knows it she is caught up in the lifestyle on the ranch and all the people who live there. She is so drawn to Suzanne and the soon-to-be infamous leader, Russell, that she does not realize the darkness surrounding the ranch.
I am sure most people are familiar with Charles Manson. At least enough to know he had a cult and the “Manson Girls” and that in the summer of 1969 they went and killed a bunch of people. This book is a direct reference to Charles Manson. While the plot that happens and all the characters are not named after anyone who was actually involved there are great parallels between Charles Manson and Russell. There are also a lot of similarities between some of the events that happened and things that occurred in real life. While this book is a fiction novel Cline does such a great job of alluding to Charles Manson that you were able to see the connections. I had done a little bit more background research on him before reading this book to see how similar it would be. Some of the details she incorporates are so spot on.
Even though she is comparing it to the story of the Charles Manson she makes it her own original work by the point-of-view of the novel. Having it told from a fourteen year old girl who was not quite fully involved in the cult gave it a great perspective. Evie’s character was going through that phase that most teenage girls go through. They want to be liked and they want to fit in. Evie was desperate for Suzanne to like her and see something in her that she ignored any warning signs that might have been there. I think through this point-of-view Cline is able to stress how easy it is for us to ignore the dangers of something just because we want to fit in. How even the nicest of kids can fall into this cult mentality.
Cline also does a great job of building the suspense in this novel. Even though we all know what is coming there was still a suspense. I think for me part of the reason for that was because the narrator is telling the story as if she is looking back on it. At one point Evie tells Suzanne she remembered her because of her hair and Suzanne is very proud of her hair. Then Evie as the narrator comments saying that she would later learn that Russell did not want them cutting their hair. There were a lot of scenes where she would comment on what she would learn later or looking back on the situation what had really happened at that point. I think this helped build the suspense in the book because you would get these little bits of information about Russell or the events he created without them showing up yet. It made you want to know more.
The only thing I did not really like about this book was a couple of times it jumped to “present” time and was Evie in her life as an adult. I didn’t fully understand the points of those scenes. I think maybe it was to show that the times haven’t changed that much. However, I felt she could have done that just as well by having an epilogue. It took away from the story to keep jumping back and forth too much.
Overall though this book was fantastic. I really enjoyed the writing style and the story line.