Like many other book bloggers out there, I choose to pick up scary (ish) books during the month of Halloween to help me get into the spirit of things. The spooky season was a great excuse to finally read The Girls by Emma Cline, which has been staring out at me on my book shelf for months now.

Smokey getting into the Halloween spirit
Smokey getting into the Halloween spirit

I read a few reviews of it before I picked it up myself, which is never a good idea because it inevitably taints your thoughts on the book before you even start reading it. But even though the reviews have been mixed, I personally enjoyed the book.

Yes, the writing is flowery, this can annoy some people. But I found it really beautiful, the language was unique, and it made reading the narrative pleasant, putting you into a dream-like state even though you were sometimes reading about things that were horrific. This may seem like a reach to some, but what Cline did with her language mimicked the act of what the cult leader, Russell did to his followers. I better back up a second here.

The story is about a young girl named Evie who’s bored, and finds herself drawn to a group of scroungy-looking women she comes across in a park one day. Keep in mind this is the 70s, so I imagined everyone looked a bit scraggly, but moving on. Evie is invited back to ‘the ranch’, which is essentially a run down commune that hosts young people who are in love with their ‘leader’, con-man Russell. While there, they do a bunch of drugs and engage in sexual acts with each other (isn’t that what everyone did in the 70s?). Anyway, in a Charles Manson-esque way, some people in this group are eventually persuaded to commit a very violent act, which they are eventually jailed for, and don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler.

Smokey also enjoyed the feminist commentary found within the pages of this book
Smokey also enjoyed the feminist commentary found within the pages of this book

Other than the language used, I really enjoyed Cline’s general commentary on women and their positions within society at that time. She frequently makes these over-arching statements in reference to the struggles young women face both internally and externally. Most of what she says is still applicable in some small way, even today. For example:

“At that age, I was, first and foremost, a thing to be judged, and that shifted the power in every interaction onto the other person” (p. 99).

I’m not usually prone to making gender-specific observations, but I do feel I understand this statement very acutely having been a young woman at one point in my life (that time has passed now unfortunately) and now having  a young daughter of my own. Women more than men are judged on their appearances, especially when they’re teenagers, and Cline’s ability to point that out so frequently in a non-irritating way is something to be commended in this book.

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