THIS WAS INCREDIBLE.
This book reads like BUTTER...…
Moldy, rotten, disgusting butter, but butter nonetheless. The butter in the back of the fridge that's been there for god knows how long. The butter with a year's worth of various shades of toast crumbs mingling in it. THAT butter.
If that imagery makes you squeamish, then please DO NOT pick up this book because I assure you, you will not be able to make it past 10 pages. But if you are like me and find grotesque, cringey imagery in stories absurdly entertaining to a near sado-masochistic extent, then hear me out.
Wilder girls is a tale of an isolated boarding school of girls off the coast of Maine whose inhabitants have contracted an unprecedented plague called the Tox. The disease manifests differently for each girl - some girls develop painful unrelenting sores, scales of hardened skin, fish gills, extra bones that tear through their bodies, flesh that falls off like wallpaper, etc. In all cases there are "flare-ups" of the disease that are extremely painful episodes that most often lead to either death or disfigurement. The main heroine, Hetty, and her classmates are held at the school to fend for themselves in quarantine until a cure can be developed. Their days are spent in constant vigilance as they defend themselves against rabid plague-ridden animals and fellow students turned feral, while trying to survive off of pitiful rations of food. But things aren't as they seem, and when best friend Byatt mysteriously vanishes, Hetty will sacrifice all that she has to face the treachery of the island to bring her back. In the process, she uncovers hidden secrets that alter the fate of her and her classmates forever.
The pacing of this book is sublime. There are no lulls, no dawdling, no chances for your eyes to wander. It's fast-paced, well constructed, perfectly balanced, which makes it an addictive page-turner. The style of the writing is succinct and easy to digest and you gulp down pages like it's nothing. All the while it effectively creates this paranoid, unsettling atmosphere that gives you chills and makes you itch vicariously. The characters are fleshed out to the point that we care about them but they are still shrouded in mystery. We don't have them all figured out, which adds to the tension. All in all, a powerfully visceral, captivating read with an ending that is anything but conventional. What more can you ask for?