After hearing multiple people talk with great enthusiasm about "The Girls" on social med, and it sounded much as if this enthusiasm was different from the enthusiasm readers of 50 Shades of Grey tend to express (a book so awfully written, that I couldn't bear reading any further than the first chapter) I got curious to this debute novel by Emma Cline. As I thought of it as a light read perfect for the holidays, I took it with me on a relaxing holiday to Curacao. There it took me only a few days to finish it, something that only the empty hours of a relaxing holiday allow now I'm not in elementary school anymore, and I liked it a lot more than I'd expected from a 21st century novel.
I think of The Girls as an incredibly well-written and entertaining story. Refreshing, would be the word, for it was completely different from most popular books of this era. It's not so much about love and romance, neither about a life most of us can relate to, but yet it is comprehensible, and rather interesting because the subject was quite unknown to me.
I will try not to spoil too much of the story, but I feel like some explanation on the plot would be preferable here. The book is written from the perspective of Evie Boyd, who, as a late-adult, looks back at this one particular summer of her teenage-life, in 1969. Being only a 14-years-old and rather unpopular, having only one actual friend and divorced parents, Evie is not quite a happy teen. Then one day she notices a group of girls at the park, of which one in particular, named Suzanne, and she is fascinated by them. Coincidence makes her run into Suzanne twice more, and the latter time she is invited to come with them to a place called "the ranch". It turns out these girls are involved in some sort of cult, and they all admire the spiritual-ish leader Russell as if he were a god. To Evie, the ranch is a wonderful place: none is greedy, everyone loves each other, freedom is all over, just like rebelliousness and equality. It doesn't matter that they are poor, they have and love each other and that's more than Evie ever had before. Becoming obsessed with Suzanne, Evie gets more and more involved in the cult herself, and therefore also in more and more in some darker stuff...
While reading, it becomes sort of logical while Evie wants to be part of the group at the ranch. Where many others would have turned away from it, Evie was in the right position to be drawn towards it, and even though the descriptions may not actually make you feel as if you'd like to be there yourself (like in the way readers desperately desire to be at Hogwarts), it still gives you the feeling that it makes sense why Evie does want to be a part of it.
Besides the story, I found Emma Cline's writing style rather pleasing. Her way of describing things was sometimes extraordinary, but at the same time right on. For example, when describing the way the main character was feeling when she thought of her own boring and awkward life compared to the adventurous ones the people of the cult had, she wrote: "...Reclining in the dentist's chair, hands politely in my lap, while Dr. Lopes worked in my mouth, his gloves slick with my idiot drool.". Her choices of words and phrases, her use of metaphors, her almost poetical style of writing, create the sort of tone that makes the book so great. It's straight-up brilliance. I like stories that are beautifully and brilliantly written, like a song with deep meaning sung by a beautiful voice. When surroundings and characters are not just boldly described to explain something quickly, but when they are vaguely described to create certain feelings, visualizing something more intense than a precise description ever would, as the image comes with certain flavours, smells and emotions as well. It's such a delight.