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Wilder Girls by Rory Power - Review

Monday, February 17, 2020

Where did I get it? Netgalley, so thank you very much to Pan Macmillan for giving me access. I was excited because I had heard so much about this book on Twitter. I actually had it on pre-order last year, but for some reason it got cancelled? I'm not sure if there was a delay in the book or something. But, I'm glad I've got to read it!

What's it about? Hetty is a pupil at a school on Raxter Island, an island off the coast of Maine. It's an all girls school, and the girls and two of their teachers are under quarantine. Eighteen months ago, the Tox spread among them. It is some kind of disease, but it affects each of them differently. Each girl gets "flare ups" of her own particular disease every now and then. There are just two teachers left - just the Headmistress and Miss Welch. Welch is in charge of Boat Shift, three girls who go to the island's pier to pick up food and other supplies from the Navy and Centre for Disease Control. Food and medical supplies are really scarce, and each day when Boat Shift comes back there's a fight for food. Girls die fairly frequently; from a full school there's only around sixty of them left. Plus the island itself has the Tox too - all the animals are wilder, all the plants are poisoned. Hetty has been part of Gun Shift until the start of the back, keeping watch all night with a shotgun to ward off bears and other wild animals. The school has no contact with the outside world. It is basically feral, every girl for herself. 

Hetty's best friend is Byatt, who she met on her first day years ago. Hetty's from a naval family and grew up on a base down in Virginia. Byatt is from Boston. They are also friends with Reese, although she is spiky and a little bit cold towards Hetty. Hetty lost the use of one of her eyes because of the Tox, when her eyelids fused together. Reese has glowing hair and a silver, scaly hand. Every girl is disabled in some way by the Tox, and as I said, they haven't all survived. 

I found the book compelling but it is very graphic and gory. There's a lot of disease, disability, gore, and blood. I think it's done well in context, but it may not be the right book for you. 

What age range is it for? 14+. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, but no spoilers. 

Are any main characters people of colour? If they are, it isn't mentioned. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes. There's a lot of pain, disability, post-traumatic stress, health uncertainty, and so on. It may be triggering. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, there's a really intense part with a drug, if you need more details on this please contact me. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, lots. 

Are there swear words? A couple.

What criticisms do I have? I enjoyed the book, but I didn't think it was complete enough. It reads to me very much like the first in a trilogy, and doesn't all together work as a standalone. There aren't enough answers. I wanted bigger showdowns with more answers; I wanted to know what happened to the main characters. Maybe it is going to have follow on books, and I would definitely read them, but I do think this needed to be different in order to stand by itself. That isn't to say it's bad, but it felt incomplete to me. 

Would I recommend the book? Despite my criticisms, yes! I think it is very compelling and I wanted to keep reading to see what happened. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I have heard rave reviews of it and wanted to see for myself. 

What do I think of the cover? I think it's nice, although maybe a little bit stylised - the reality of the Tox is much more gruesome and gory and I feel like the cover could have reflected this a bit more. 

What other books is it like? I've seen it described as We Were Liars (which I loved, but wanted to throw out of a window, and which I read before I started this blog) meets The Power. I guess that is a fair explanation of the book, but it doesn't quite get there. 

How many stars? Three out of five, although, if there is a follow on book, I may revisit that rating. We shall see!

Wilder Girls was published on 6th February 2020. I was given a free electronic copy of the novel but was not compensated in any other way for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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