The Grace Year
What worked: Just wowza. This is one intense, haunting tale of girls that are banished on their sixteenth year to release their 'magic' into the wild before they can come back home. The villagers 'fear' the girl's magic and set them out into the wilderness. Even though no one can speak of the 'grace year', rumors circulate about what happens to the girls who don't come back. Plus, there are the very real horrors of poachers who capture and skin the girls for their 'magic'.
Tierney James kind of reminded me a little of Katniss in The Hunger Games. She's strong-willed, not afraid of questioning the reasons behind the grace year and even shuns the whole idea of getting a veil right before going out into the wilderness. During that ceremony the girl's 'future' husband gives her the veil. Her and her best friend Michael stumble on what happens to those girls who don't come back at his father's apothecary shop. There are pieces of the missing girls in glass bottles. Villagers purchase them, thinking they're a youth portion. This haunts Tierney.
The scenes in the wilderness are filled with almost a psychedelic horror. Tierney watches as some of the other girls feel that they are coming into their hidden powers. She doesn't know what is real or if she's going mad. Then there is mean girl Kiersten, who blames Tierney for taking away something from her during the veiling ceremony. It's up to Tierney to try to survive through the year. Kiersten makes that task almost impossible and tries to turn the other girls against her.
Tierney fears of being captured and skinned alive almost come true. What happens is she finds that the rumors on the poachers are complicated. Not all is what it seems. In fact, those who she felt were friends could turn quickly. Especially when the idea of being super powerful and having a super power is very seductive. This is the only time the girls are by themselves and don't have to follow the rules of the males in the village. Some of the girls succumb to that allure and others end up going mad.
There's a forbidden love angle that is bittersweet. Tierney wants to follow her heart, but knows if she does her younger sister will be cast outside. Her struggle to either follow her heart or help the other girls is one that she battles with throughout the novel.
Handmaid's Tale meets Lord of the Flies in this thought-provoking tale where the idea of magic is tempered with the will to survive. This story is one that will keep readers on the edge of their seat on what will happen to Tierney when she's banished with the other girls during the grace year. There's also shown the power of rallying together and standing up to injustices against women. Powerful, insightful, and a story that is guaranteed to stay with readers long after they finish the last page.