I’ve gotten so into horror after reading this book, which I did for hours during the night as I couldn’t sleep. I was visiting my boyfriend and he absolutely thought I was a bit more strange trying to explain this book and how well it balanced between fantasy and horror in a unique way. Most of this unique feeling I think came from the perspective, it all being about and told by teen girls. Anyway, I’ll get back to that.
young adult (don’t agree), horror: disease & body horror, lgbt (queer girls, slight f/f relationship, but a lot of yearning), some mystery vibes, set in a boarding school on an island. quarantined (which will be a genre i guess).
Warning: it has a lot of trigger warnings, pls search them up before reading
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.
Rating out of five: five stars
here’s me arguing it’s not YA
This book has amazing cover art, but I think it did the book a diservice, along the fact that it’s branded as young adult. I feel like this is a larger conversation that I keep having, but not everything with teenage characters (especially female) is YA! It doesn’t have a great rating at goodreads (3.58) and I think it’s because people isn’t expecting what they get unless they’re like me that added this to their TBR as it was released a year ago and then now saw one book blogger (don’t remember who oops) saying it was more horror like, which got my interest again.
the friend-group & characters
SO! An all-girl high school on an island where most of the teachers die off on the beginning of the the two year quarantine, where everything starts up pretty simple and then reveals so much more complex moral, practical, society & science-related questions. It’s reveal after reveal and a constant search for who is the good & bad guys, which gives the mystery vibes. There’s a strong queer friend-group & chosen family trope, but not with likable characters. Think about it – unlikable female characters, violent at that. Most reviews I’ve read lists that as a main issue they had, but I feel like a lot of this book is the experimentation of fierce, reckless, dangerous girl characters, who also have other sides to them. Some of it can be excused to this disease they’ve all got and are dying from, the Tox, mutating their bodies in graphic, unique and eerie ways. But they’re also shaped by living in a two-year life & death situation, along with maybe not being the perfect complacent & normal main characters in the first place.
I WAS SHOCKED at having seen one girl of the friendgroup having been described by the main character Hetty in one adoring (almost worshipping) way the whole time. And then we got the other girl’s narrative and she was so different, with clear sociopathic/violent tendencies. But still it was revealed during a situation where you as a reader wanted to feel bad for her, which is when I truly cheered for this duality this book accomplished.
the island setting & writing
Every description was done so well and fit the mystery and horror aspect as the island they’re on takes as much part as any character. It makes so much sense with the quarantine aspect, the fact that one of the characters has a dad she hasn’t seen in a year living in those woods. The woods are alive and overgrown, as is the mutated animals, which is a threat. I’m just surprised by how much the author got into one book tbh. It’s also a lot of fun to read, surprisingly!
This book has the mystery, murder, dark humor and boarding-school vibes of Maureen Johnson’s ‘Truly Devious’ mixed in with any dystopian bad-government, mutated animals, body horror you can think of, all with a good dash of forest aesthetic and eerie, descriptive writing. It’s one of my new favourite books and I would totally recommend it. Just don’t expect it to be YA or to like most of the characters.
Quote with slight spoilers: