“She was lost in that deep and certain sense that there was nothing beyond her own experience. As if there were only one way things could go, the years leading you down a corridor to the room where your inevitable self waited–embryonic, ready to be revealed. How sad it was to realize that sometimes you never got there. That sometimes you lived a whole life skittering across the surface as the years passed, unblessed.” -Emma Cline
I didn’t want it to end. I carried the book around with me for weeks, trying to read it as slowly as I could. It was like honey. And I only had one jar. I stuck my thumb around the rim and got a drop every now and then, but all I could think about was how every time I enjoyed the honey, the sooner it would all be gone.
Sometimes I read books in a fury, racing through them in a few hours or days. Not having read a really good book in a while, I tried to savor it. But I think I just made it less enjoyable for myself. I’d pick up the book after a few days and feel disjointed. What was happening again? Is this a flashback or the present? For a few paragraphs, I’d be confused, mentally kicking myself. Why did I wait so long to start reading it again?
It became a game. Carrying the book everywhere with me, trying to see how long I could go without reading more than ten or so pages at a time. And then, in the end, I realized that I was only making the whole experience less enjoyable. I felt like I was fasting. Or trying to. For no good reason.
Reading books like The Girls is what makes me want to write. It’s what spurs my hand into action, scribbling down the lines that I repeat in my head all day. Writing is how I process the world around me, how I make sense of my life, reframing everything into a story so it’s less painful or more meaningful. Stringing up my memories so that they tell a certain story. That’s what fiction is, isn’t it? What I mean to say is that The Girls was a great read, and I look forward to reading more of Cline’s books in the future.
The Girls is a fiction book told in the first person by Evie, a fourteen-year-old girl. It’s a story about Evie coming to terms with her own sexuality and herself as a young woman in society. It discusses the power she wields with her sexuality and the power men have over her as a woman. The story switches back and forth between Evie as a budding teenager and Evie as an adult looking back on when she got involved in a cult. It’s set in northern California at the end of the 1960’s. Remember the Manson family murders? It’s loosely based off that.
What surprised me about this book was that Evie is lured into the cult because she is attracted to a girl in it named Suzanne, not the male leader. It was a breath of fresh air to read an LGBT+ story where the entire story didn’t revolve around being gay. It was treated as a normal thing that didn’t need explaining because it is. However, I would caution those who have trouble reading about sexual assault. If you are a sexual abuse survivor, it could bring up some unwanted feelings and memories. This can be a good thing, but confronting your trauma is something you should do on your own terms, not when you’re reading on a bus or sitting in class.
For Emma Cline’s first novel, it was fantastic. There were times when things felt a little disjointed, and I could tell a tad bit that it was her first book. Sometimes I felt like she was trying too hard to write beautiful prose instead of focusing on telling the story. And other times, I felt like when she went a little off topic to craft elegant sentences is what made the book so amazing.
In the end, to me, The Girls was a love story. Sure, there was the cult, the complications of family and friendship, becoming a woman, and so on. So many topics were touched upon. What truly stuck with me, though, is how much Evie loved Suzanne and the realization that she would have done anything for her, even if that meant going against her own morals and participating in brutal violence.
Cline, Emma. The Girls: A Novel. New York: Random House, 2016. Print.
August Blair is the founder of Survival is a Talent. She is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media manager. She studies creative writing at Georgia State University. She loves reading, sweets, and warm weather. A story about her life with a mental illness has been published in the next volume of The i’Mpossible Project. It is available for pre-order and will be in stores November 2017. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.