When I wrote my review of Rory Power’s second novel Burn Our Bodies Down, I made a disappointing discovery. I hadn’t finished my review for her debut novel Wilder Girls here on the blog! In spite of how I shouted my love of it to the world on social media, I hadn’t finished the review here.
Obviously, I’m rectifying this right now, because holy crap, this was a great book! Under the heading of better late than never, here’s my review, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should. Disclosure: This post contain some affiliate links that may earn me a commission if you purchase through them.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Published by Delacorte Press on July 9, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Girls & Women, Science Fiction
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"Celebrates the resilience of girls and the earthshaking power of their friendships. An eerie, unforgettable triumph." --Claire Legrand, New York Times bestselling author of Furyborn
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.
4 STARRED REVIEWS!
"Fresh and horrible and beautiful....readers will be consumed and altered by Wilder Girls."-NPR
"Take Annihilation, add a dash of Contagion, set it at an all-girls' academy, and you'll arrive at Rory Power's occasionally shocking and always gripping Wilder Girls."--Refinery29
My Thoughts on Wilder Girls
Wilder Girls was a totally unique book, different from any other dystopian-type book I’ve read. The little world Rory Power has created is vividly imagined, and really well developed. And creepy. (And I say “little” world because the girls are quarantined to an island and are cut off from the outer world nearly completely, with the exception of food deliveries from the mainland.) The island has become a wild, scary place as this plague has not limited itself to the humans. This story is part horror, part psychological thriller, and left me a little speechless and feeling a bit off-kilter.
We don’t see the start of the of the infection (“the Tox”) that causes humans, flora, and fauna on the the island to change, mutate, in fascinating, horrible ways. Instead, she drops us into the story as they are months in. The plague manifests in each of the girls in different and wildly imaginative ways , certainly, fans of body horror will be delighted.
Power tells her story from the alternating viewpoints of Reese, Byatt, and Hetty, in mostly first-person POV that borders on stream-of-consciousness. It was both poetic and visual (and at times awkward).
“Byatt lowers her gun, rests it on the railing. Road clear. I keep mine up, just in case, keep the sight raised to my left eye. My other eye’s dead, gone dark in a flare-up. Lid fused shut, something growing underneath. It’s like that, with all of us here. Sick, strange, and we don’t know why. Things bursting out of us, bits missing and pieces sloughing off, and then we harden and smooth over.”
Power’s writing style adds to the chaos and confusion and tension of the situation the girls find themselves in. The character development is good, but it’s the world building and atmosphere she creates that really makes this the creepy, scary, curious story that it is.
I don’t want to give much more away, as Wilder Girls is one of those books that you really want to go into semi-blind and just let the story unfold. The resolution left me wanting more, so I’m hoping that Power has a sequel, someday. (I fear this is a standalone).
Wilder Girls is a definite escape from this crazy place we’re in right now. It’s not a peaceful, relaxing escape, but if you want to put yourself in a different world for a bit, Power’s island is a creepy, weird, fantastic place to be glad you’re somewhere else. Five stars for this wild tale.