As a serial bookworm and digital junkie, my Kindle library is out of control. I don’t own an actual bookshelf. But when I caught sight of Emma Cline’s debut novel in a Sydney bookshop, I had a feeling it would be an entertaining (and sand-proof) read for my upcoming Bali holiday.
“The Girls” in a nutshell
Evie Boyd is pretty, she’s rich and semi-famous thanks to her grandmother, a Hollywood starlet. She leads a charmed life, aside from having to put up with a somewhat emotionally unstable mother with a penchant for dating douchebags. Evie’s desperate for the nod of approval from the cool guys – basically crack to any 14-year old teenage girl. And she gets a hit by bonding with Suzanne, the “it-girl” of a Charles Manson-like cult that will compromise Evie in more ways than one.
“She seemed as strange and raw as those flowers that bloom in lurid explosion once every five years, the gaudy, prickling tease that was almost the same thing as beauty.”
‘The Girls’ is a fantastic novel. The story forces you to make sense of events in your life you’d rather forget. Evie’s honest, self-aware first-person narrative made me remember my 14-year old approval-seeking self in a way no other book ever has. Most of us were once Evies: insecure teenagers who would do anything to be one of the cool guys.
“All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you – the boys had spent that time becoming themselves”.
While I loved “The Girls” I must admit it took me a couple chapters to get into it. Cline’s striking writing voice sometimes made it challenging to pay attention the plot. Her detail-heavy prose doesn’t disappoint:
“A glut of spaghetti, mossed with cheese. The nothing jump of soda in my throat”.
Seriously impressive for a debut novelist, who also happens to be 27 years old by the way.
According to some online reviews, readers felt cheated by “The Girls”; they found the story to be underdeveloped, not juicy enough. I disagree. Emma Cline does so much more than simply retell an infamous cult story (a story that’s been told countless times). The point of the extreme setting is to force us look at our old selves in a different light and make us think: could this have happened to me?
Want to read “The Girls” by Emma Cline? Get in on Amazon.
Have you read “The Girls”? What did you think?