dark, atmospheric, and enthralling
THE HANDMAID'S TALE meets LORD OF THE FLIES in this dark, atmospheric, and sweeping YA dystopian. Tierney James is 16-years-old, an age when girls are thought to come into magic that makes men lust for them and women jealous. In fear of this dangerous magic, the sixteen-year-old girls are sent off into the wilderness to release their magic, away from everyone else, for their Grace Year, a year when everything is secret but many do not return alive.
Girls are branded with their father's symbol at birth, marking them as property. Before their Grace Year, the boys of the same age and men whose wives have died or been sentenced to death (for hoarding/using their magic), can claim a bride through barters with their fathers. Tierney has never wanted to be a wife, even though this is considered the best fate, and she knows that she will go to a grueling manual job if she is not married. However, this has its own freedom, and Tierney longs for that freedom- even though many of those girls are sexually assaulted and physically worn down. The alternative fate is to be cast out of the county where they will work as prostitutes.
As Tierney and the other girls are forced into a brutal struggle for survival, hallucinating and punishing each other, Tierney begins to see bigger truths about the world around her. As her mother says, even though her eyes are wide open, she sees nothing. The Grace Year changes that and robs her of any innocence she had remaining. With poachers- men who slowly skin and dismember the girls who stray to sell to the county for youth serums- waiting at the edges, Tierney learns that the greatest threat may be from within as the girls turn on each other.
This book was dark, enthralling, and lyrically atmospheric. Impossible to put down, this book contains themes of feminism, survival, and social justice. The ending is a little open, and I would love to see a sequel to this book. A powerful read, this is one that will stick with the reader for long after the last page is turned.