Title: The Girls
Author: Emma Cline
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: June 14, 2016 (Today!)
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "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."
My Two Cents:
As the decade of the 1960s closes, Evie Boyd is adrift. Her family life is a mess. Her only friend has moved away and she is drawn in to a brand new world by Suzanne, the girl with the long, dirty hair in the pass-me-down dress. This world is dangerous and exciting and Evie feels like she has found somewhere she belongs, another family. At first, this cult seems like the answer to Evie's thoughts but her obsession will soon lead her down a dangerous path. With shades of the story of Charles Manson and the Manson family cult, this book had me rapidly turning pages to answer the question of will she or won't she?
Evie is such a typical teenage girl. All she wants is to belong. She wants to feel like she's a part of something. She wants to feel good about herself. She is dealing with so many of the things that normal teenage girls deal with: first loves, fights with friends, thoughts of sex, etc. Teenaged girls are incredibly vulnerable without a good support system, which Evie definitely doesn't have in this book. Her parents' marriage is in shambles and she is basically left on her own. The author does a great job of showing why she is so driven to join this cult even if it means doing things in her heart of hearts that don't feel right. We also get a glimpse of what Evie sees looking back on her situation as an adult, which I really liked. In a way, she is still greatly affected by all that happened during her time chasing the cult.
Cults are so fascinating to me so I was interested to see this fictional take on Manson's cult. The time period is the same but the setting has been moved from the L.A. area to the Bay Area. Manson has been replaced by another charismatic leader. This leader is still surrounded by very young women, many of them teenagers. The book goes into a lot of detail about how this guy is able to prey upon very sad girls. He finds an angle and uses it to exploit them. It was fascinating and incredibly scary as well.
I think this book was definitely a gamble for the author; so many people still vividly recall the Manson family crimes and even now, many of the things that he does from jail still end up making the evening news. This gamble pays off in a page-turning account of a very naive girl.