Wilder Girls by Rory Power | Review

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.

Pages: 357

Genre: 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

Synopsis

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.

My thoughts

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!

conclusion

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:

Platonic Love & “I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You” by Yumi Sakugawa

Before reading this book I have a confession to make.

I’ve been really missing two friends that I’m having to stop myself talking about way too much in front of my family now. I’m more attached to them than they’re to me, not that I would ever admit it to them. Only that I did to one of them, the last day before I left the city because of corona, saying that sometimes I made dinner just because he was cooking. (okay we might also be flatmates, let’s be sure no one from real life ever finds this blog, shall we?) Only one of us had been drinking and it was not me, so I wonder where that courage came from. I’ve been actually searching for what my fucking problem is. Dodie Clark (a singer/youtuber) recently made a post with a caption about how she’d been obsessed with Shannon Barry as this better version of her, before they met and actually became friends. Like a friend-crush, but also jealous of. It reminded me of my situation, but both the friends are guys, so it’s not like I’m jealous and comparing myself. Well, only a little. They’re so damn smart. Anyway, enough of my troubles and let’s read this book and hopefully get some clarity or relatability.

After reading this book.

It’s like an adult kids book! This book is filled with interesting and cute, simplistic illustrations, the writing is so precise and everything just describes and/or states for future generations how friendships and friend-crushes are these days, where half or more of the relationship happens online. It also describes my situation nearly perfectly. How many times has I been so excited that the other person also struggles to fall asleep and is willing to discuss cults or strange books we read way too young.

It’s just the perfect little graphic novel. I’m shrugging in real life right now, because I don’t know what more to say. Here’s an example;

I really liked the open end, and hope from the bottom of my heart that these cuties will be best friends forever. I might also have had a online movie night with the two friends, and one of them (the one that seems most detached and independent normally) drunkenly said that this was the best moment of his week. So I’m taking that as a sign that even if we are bad at communicating all three of us, like the nerds we are, I’m not solely imagining this friendship to be bigger and stronger than it is. I might not go in for hugs anytime soon though, because last time I tried two of us was leaving for France and the last friend looked like I’d hit him, he was so confused. Totally worth being the dumb, attached one sometimes for seeing a glimse of the genuine shock on his face.

In summary, read this book if you can get your hands on it, absolutely worth it. It’s short and something I would totally buy in actual book form just to have around as a thing that warms my heart.

Also, a thing that I’ve been doing way more recently is texting friends (or telling them face to face when that was a thing) if I’m thinking about them or think they’re particularly cute that day. Like actually showing affection. I’m reserving that for everyone but these two friends though. They get scared easily, and there’s always a risk they’ll tear up if you bake cake for their birthdays. Fuck, I miss them.