A feminist Lord of the Flies about three best friends living in quarantine at their island boarding school, and the lengths they go to uncover the truth of their confinement when one disappears. This fresh, new debut is a mind-bending novel unlike anything you've read before. It's been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty's life out from under her. It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don't dare wander outside the school's fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything. But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there's more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
1.) The characters: If your favorite characters are usually written by Courtney Summers, then you need to read Rory Power's debut immediately. They have the same gritty tones, complex interior lives, and rough edges. For Hetty and the others, it's not a matter of being likable or unlikable; it's a matter of existing on a decaying island where survival and love are both bloody and edged in steel.
2.) The body horror: While I love horror, I never truly understood body horror until I read WILDER GIRLS. The infection changes people's bodies in unique ways, there are several scenes of physical conflict, and scenes of scientific experimentation. For some people, this will be a deal-breaker, so be prepared going in.
3.) The edge-of-your-seat tone: Power captures one of the elements that make people love survivalist stories: the tense, edge of your seat tone. The pages are filled with tension, and you get the feeling that it could snap at any moment (and it's a big hit when it does). WILDER GIRLS is made to be devoured, and I couldn't put it down once I started it.
Overall, WILDER GIRLS cements itself as a unique, edgy, and horrific (in the best way) novel that you won't soon forget.
What worked: Think futuristic twist of LORD OF THE FLIES set in a quarantined girl's school. Add climate change to the mix and you have one mesmerizing, chilling survivalist tale.
Hetty and her classmates transformation after being infected by the Tox is shown in sometimes gruesome images. Hetty is strong and even though the virus has affected her sight(the description of what she feels is very chilling), she struggles with feeling deep down that the headmaster and authorities aren't being totally honest with them. Most of the adults at the school have died and those who did survive have changed in their own gruesome ways.
There is a Sci-fi element throughout this story, though it could be based on something that could very well happen in the near future with the consequences of climate change. Not only are the girls affected, but all life on the island.
Provocative, haunting story that is guaranteed to keep you turning the pages until the early hours.
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?
The cover is the first thing to be noticed. With it’s gorgeous yet subtly unsettling artwork, it will immediately catch your eyes.
These unforgettable characters live and breathe on the page, from Hetty’s stubborn unwillingness to give up on Byatt, to Reese’s sharpness and burning hair. The chapters narrated by Byatt were heartrending. Even minor characters felt brought to life. The girls’ struggle to stay alive in the treacherous shadowy place their lives had become was darkly fascinating, as was the tension between obvious bonds and caring between all the girls, yet also a mentality of everyone being willing to do whatever it takes to survive.
Not only the plot and the characters shine in this book. Rory Power’s writing gleams and shimmers, able to shift from flowery introspective prose to heart-pounding action scenes.
This book wouldn’t have been hurt by another few hundred pages. Unfortunately, it is as of now, a standalone, we will have to make do with the ending we were given, which is just as beautiful and captivating as the rest of the book. Although open-ended, it is a satisfying close to the tale. I think we will just have to assume that all turns out well for our beloved wilder girls.
Thanks to Bookishfirst for providing me with a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.