Synopsis (from Goodreads.com) – 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.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
My thoughts – If you know anything about the Manson family or the murders they committed in the 70s, understand cults, or were a confused young girl on the verge of adulthood, then this is the book for you.
Emma Cline’s prose are almost like reading poetry. Her attention to detail in each moment makes you feel like you’re absolutely there. However, there were moments throughout the story where I felt the language got in the way of the pace spending time describing the expressions of a drugged out girl to explain that yeah, she’s going to do something drastic.
However, I think what really drew me to this story was the fact that this was me and this is a lot of young women the main character’s age. You find Evie Boyd at the precipice of high school. She’s not friends with the kids she knew when she was younger, but she hasn’t decided who her new friends would be. She needed adventure, but more importantly she needed to seek out the adventure on her own.
More importantly if you were the girl who thought you had it all until you realized you were just background noise to another person’s life. How do you break away? How do you find your own voice and sense of self when the world revolves around someone else?
“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.”
Evie is on her way to a life designed by her mother. She ached for something different than what she’s come across. Then, she sees this group of girls around her age who’re stealing toilet paper from a drugstore and dumpster diving for dinner. As someone with an open mind, this may be the kind of scene you want to learn more about. This may be the group of friends that will help define who you are for the next ten years.
And you see that for Evie it did. Granted her circumstances are a little bit different than most girls her age, but that’s not the point. The point is that there are moments and people that affect you. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. While she never really prescribed to the philosophy Russell, the group leader, was spewing, she found it fascinating that other people did. She was the anthropologist to this little group of rebellious teenagers and maybe she fell a little too inline with their thoughts.
“Poor girls. The world fattens them on the promise of love. How badly they need it, and how little most of them will ever get.”
As adults, we forget that kids don’t know much of anything. And this is much more prevalent to girls than to boys, sadly. It’s only from exposure to other cultures do we know there’s a life outside of the bubble. I think it’s extremely important for people to reach out of their safety zones and explore the world for a little while. It might be something small like a group of kids living off the land and the means they were provided. It could be that these teens were being bred for something bigger than themselves, but that’s for the youth to decide. You can’t shelter young people forever. You an either guide them through the harshness of life or you can watch them walk blindly into the lion’s den.
“She was lost in that deep and certain sense that there was nothing beyond her own experience. As if there were only one way things could go, the years leading you down a corridor to the room where your inevitable self waited–embryonic, ready to be revealed. How sad it was to realize that sometimes you never got there. That sometimes you lived a whole life skittering across the surface as the years passed, unblessed.”
All of this to say that life isn’t going to be perfect and sometimes you need to try something different for a little while before you find your true self.