ARC Review: The Girls by Emma Cline

Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Girls by Emma Cline
Released: 14th June 2016
Published by: Random House
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: Netgalley
Pages: 368
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Girls—their vulnerability, strength, and passion to belong—are at the heart of this stunning first novel for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.

 Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon.

Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

 Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction—and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Emma Cline has such a way with words, and there's no denying that this is a book which will draw you into its depths before jolting you back to reality once you reach its end. Melodically written yet with a distinctly sinister undercurrent, this is a story which builds subtly towards a violent crescendo. Set int the summer of 1969, the then fourteen year old protagonist Evie Boyd is inexorably drawn towards a group of older girls, tantalised by their own dreamlike world - which is more dangerous than she could have ever imagined; yet intoxicating nonetheless.

Her makeup looked terrible, but it was more of a symbol, I suppose. I could see she was nervous with my eyes on her. I understood the worry. When I was that age, I was uncertain of how to move, whether I was walking too fast, whether others could see the discomfort and stiffness in me.

As he talked, I hugged myself with my arms. It all started making sense to me, what Russell was saying, in the drippy way things could make sense. How drugs patchworked simple, banal thoughts into phrases that seemed filled with importance. My twitchy adolescent brain was desperate for causalities, for conspiracies that drenched every word, every gesture, with meaning. I wanted Russell to be a genius.

If there's one distinct feature of this novel, it's the winding prose which is hypnotic in itself. Each page is saturated with imagery and a deft turn of phrase that encapsulates what it feels like to be a teenage girl coming of age. That pressing insecurity, the dichotomy between autonomy and autocracy, and a yearning for acceptance are all experienced by Evie, until she is lured by Suzanne and her clique into Russel's twisted enclave. I've read that this story is loosely based on what actually happened surrounding Charles Manson, which makes it even more disturbing. It's clear in the first pages where Evie is looking back on her younger years just how terribly wrong the whole situation was - though the question us readers are dying to know is what sequence of events led to such a terrible fate? This question is answered by the conclusion, and the path there is one which is deceptively lulling, with just the right amount of dissonance to maintain suspense.

Sidenote- reading this book reminded me a lot of Lana del Rey's song 'Freak' - if you watch the music video you'll see what I mean.

Suzanne and the other girls had stopped being able to make certain judgments, the unused muscle of their ego growing slack and useless. It had been so long since any of them had occupied a world where right and wrong existed in any real way. Whatever instincts they’d ever had—the weak twinge in the gut, a gnaw of concern—had become inaudible. If those instincts had ever been detectable at all.

Though the abundance of purple prose may not appeal to everyone, it's the actual plausibility of the story and shock factor which make it so indelible. The 1960's was a time when the disillusioned youth turned towards radical ideas, perhaps a doomed relationship just for the sake of it, or finding a group of people just like them to share in the general melancholia of adolescence. Emma Cline's insights such as these in The Girls are scathing, bringing to light the moral dilemmas and hedonism which characterised the era and influenced teens within it. It is the young women like Suzanne and  Evie which were the most vulnerable to the charms of a man with big ideas, and what appeared as a utopia in the midst of an increasingly unsettled age.

Even possessing that small amount of money tindered an obsessive need in me, a desire to see how much I was worth. The equation excited me. You could be pretty, you could be wanted, and that could make you valuable. I appreciated the tidy commerce. And maybe it was something I already perceived in relationships with men—that creep of discomfort, of being tricked. At least this way the arrangement was put toward some use.

Cline has also shown her skill in developing each of her characters with a unique voice and charisma. While 'the girls' flounder at the ranch, aching for attention and simply wanting to be seen and desired, Russel is something else entirely. He's a character who is both aberrant and coldly calculating - possessing a power over his followers that is omnipotent. It was definitely interesting to see how the group dealt with people from the outside of their inner circle, and how malicious decisions eventually dictated their downfall.

The man held up his hands and boomed out a greeting: the group surged and twitched like a Greek chorus. At moments like that, I could believe Russell was already famous. He seemed to swim through a denser atmosphere than the rest of us. He walked among the group, giving benedictions: a hand on a shoulder, a word whispered in an ear. The party was still going, but everyone was now aimed at him, their faces turned expectantly, as if following the arc of the sun.

My one qualm with The Girls was the ending - it just seemed a bit too rushed and tidy. Though the last chapter is undeniably perturbing, I think that Evie may have gotten away from the drama too easily, with too few external repercussions. However, I think this can be forgiven since the rest of the story is so gripping.


The Girls is a story where a loss of innocence is punctuated by one girl's experience in a microcosmic world of misplaced trust and blind faith. Emma Cline has proved herself to be a talented young writer with a bright future, if this brooding novel is anything to go by.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I feel differently about since then

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by bloggers at The Broke and the BookishThis week I've  picked the top ten books I've changed my opinions about over time...

1. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Twilight (Twilight, #1)

It was the 'cool' thing to read back in 2008-2009 when I first got into this series. Did I love it at the time? (admittedly) Yes. Strangely enough, I never came around to reading Breaking Dawn, because by that time these books had lost their shimmer to me. Now the melodrama of it all just annoys me.

2. Being Here by Bary Jonsberg


I don't think I have this book enough of a chance when I first read it about eight years ago now, probably because I just wasn't mature enough to understand it. I think the initial 2 stars was a bit harsh, so I hope to come back to it one day.

3. The Museum of Mary Child by Cassandra Golds


This is a middle-grade novel which was brilliantly written, atmospheric, and just creepy enough to keep me on my toes. I'd be interested to see if it still holds that same magic for me today..

4. The Red Shoe by Ursula Dubosarksy


This is a book I'd definitely rate higher in hindsight. It provides a glimpse into life in Sydney in the 1950's and the effects of the some of the Cold War tensions which made their way onto Australian shores. This is a MG novel with more depth than what meets the eye.

5. The Reluctant Hallelujah by Gabrielle Williams


Looking back onto my last goodreds status for this, I wrote 'DNF - got too weird'. I honestly can't remember why - but now I'm curious and want to find out!

6.  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


This may be an unpopular opinion, but I don't think I would give Fangirl the same 5 stars I did at the time if I were to read it again now. Whether it was a case of getting caught up in the hype of it all or otherwise, I think it may now be closer to a 3.5 compared to some of the other contemporaries I've really loved. 

7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley


I'm becoming more interested in classics, especially in the realm of scifi/dystopias and so I want to give this book another chance (without the pressure of having to write an essay on it). 

8. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


This is another one of those 3-star reads which I would be likely to give more to now. I'm usually a big fan of historical fiction so want to revisit Between Shades of Gray soon. 

9. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray


I'm surprised to look back and see that I didn't really enjoy this one - now I think the satire of it all has grown on me. 

10. This is Shyness by Leanne Hall


It was a unique read which didn't quite resonate with me the first time around, but I'd be willing to give it another try for sure.

What books have you come to reconsider?

Genie's Weekly News (49)

Sunday, 8 May 2016

It's been another busy couple of weeks, but I'm finally back and doing a recap! With lots of assignments to do and mid semester just passing by, it seems I'm actually reading more than usual #gofigure. Anyway, I'm glad to be here and sharing some little insights into what's going on.

*Reading Right Now*


Bloggers everywhere are already falling head over heels for this one - and I have to say. so far I am too!

*Recommendation of the Week*


This book actually blew me away  and totally surpassed my expectations! You can read my glowing review of it here.

Another noteworthy mention is Caroline Overington's fifth novel 'The One Who Got Away'. It's a salacious and compelling psychological thriller, with a vibe similar to 'Gone Girl' - but it stands in a league of its own. That twist at the end is one that apparently even the editors didn't see coming - (and neither did I!) As a sidenote, she's an Australian author based in Sydney, so it's great to support local talent.

*From The Interwebs*

Thanks to Allen and Unwin and Bloomsbury for these two surprise review copies!

I'm excited to read more YA fantasy, and Amy Tintera has impressed me with 'Reboot' and 'Rebel' (scifi/dystopians) already, so it'll be interesting to see how she writes in this genre. As for Brian Conaghan's novel, I'm definitely intrigued by it - it seems like a dystopian, but with a lot of themes which seem relevant in the context of today.

*#BooksfortradeAU Reminder*

I've posted about this on the Aussie YA Bloggers and Readers Group via Facebook and Goodreads, but in case you missed it - #booksfortradeAU is officially back on in 2016! Thanks to everyone who participated this year, it'll be great to see even more getting involved this time around :)

If you'll be participating, feel free to use this blog Button:

Basically, twitter will still be used, but we'll also be incorporating discussions on the goodreads group. Full information in my original post can be found here.

How has your week been?

Shadowhunters TV Tie-In Giveaway! (AU)

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Hi booklovers! With the release of the Netflix Shadowhunters television series and the tie-in book covers hitting shelves, the wonderful Walker Books Australia are offering two copies up for grabs in my giveaway

Review: Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

Monday, 2 May 2016

26211610Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar
Released: 1st February 2016
Published by: Allen and Unwin
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Publisher 
Pages: 352
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jess Gordon is out for revenge. Last year the jocks from Knights College tried to shame her best friend. This year she and a hand-picked college girl gang are going to get even. The lesson: don't mess with Unity girls. The target: Blondie, a typical Knights stud, arrogant, cold . . . and smart enough to keep up with Jess.

A neo-riot girl with a penchant for fanning the flames meets a rugby-playing sexist pig - sworn enemies or two people who happen to find each other when they're at their most vulnerable?

 It's all Girl meets Boy, Girl steals from Boy, seduces Boy, ties Boy to a chair and burns Boy's stuff. Just your typical love story.

A searingly honest and achingly funny story about love and sex amid the hotbed of university colleges by the award-winning author of Raw Blue.
Thank you to Allen and Unwin  for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Summer Skin represents the perfect balance of fierce, feisty and feminist in a YA novel. A book which seems to fit comfortably in the gap between young-adult and new-adult in the scope of university life, this story is one that is refreshing and dynamic. Taking a fresh look into the 'us versus them' sub-culture between universities and the sexes, this is a title you won't want to miss getting your hands on.

Yes, there are books with the strong, independent female leads out there - but Jess Gordon is one of a kind, and so are her friends. Allie, Farren and Leane all have their own unique quirks and personalities, but the thing which bands them together is their feminine solidarity. This may be borne out of vengeance as old wounds imposed by the guys from Knights are not forgotten, but it is empowering nonetheless to see a group of such realistically characterised individuals. They're not perfect, but that's what makes them real. 

But Jess is more than just the sum of the people she hangs out with - she's intelligent in her own right as well. She's got the drive and ambition to go and invest her Telstra shares, and takes her grades at uni seriously. She talks about things like 'Heteroscedasticity' (whatever that means), and her views on things like sexuality and challenges the stereotypes placed on women in general. Kirsty Eagar has truly succeeded in tackling these wider issues at play in a way which isn't overly sanctimonious, and instead relatable. 

It's when 'Blondie' comes onto the scene which things really start heating up. This is a guy who appears to be the epitome of everything Jess has been thought to hate. He's arrogant, and on the outside pretty darn sure of himself...and oh so flirty. There is a romance involved in the story, but it isn't one which fits any of the usual cliches. It's one rife with each person constantly challenging the other, one where the ups and downs leave you hanging, and that ends up in a way which seems ultimately fitting. I won't say too much here - you'll have to read it for yourself! 


In the end, Summer Skin is a standout in Aussie YA. It pushes the boundaries regarding a portrayal of the subcultures which may be present in university life, and poses a refreshing storyline that is both emotionally charged and powerful. Perhaps it is the smart girls who do get what they want - and isn't that what we wish could always be true?