I haven’t had the best luck with young adult books lately. But, when I came across The Grace Year, I knew I had to read it. It was marketed as a blend of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power. Which had everything in my brain screaming “yes please!”. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine any book living up to that claim. Fortunately, The Grace Year proved me wrong. Because that description is spot on (just add in a splash of The Hunger Games), and the offspring of those three books turned out to be amazing.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
Survive the year.
No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.
In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.
Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.
With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.
Don’t let the pink cover fool you. The Grace Year is brutal. This book broke my heart, had me on the verge of tears, and made me want to scream. And I loved it. It had a bit of a slow start, but I think that was necessary to immerse you in the world this story takes place in. But once the story picks up, it is impossible to put this book down (except towards the end when I knew it was going to hurt me, and I had to take a brief break).
This is not an easy book to read, there is a lot of abuse (trigger warning for sexual, physical, and emotional abuse) and violence. I definitely made me uncomfortable at times, but I think that’s kind of the point. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, this shines a light on how women are mistreated. I would definitely call it feminist fiction, and I think it did a great job of pointing out issues with how women are viewed.
The writing in this novel was excellent. I’m honestly pretty skeptical about writing in young adult books (it’s just not something I enjoy all that much), but this book did not feel like YA. It felt more mature, which is appropriate given the subject matter. It also helped me fly through this book in a day, because I could NOT go to sleep not knowing how it ended.
I’m hesitant to say anything else because I really think this book needs to just stand on it’s own. Don’t go into it with too many expectations. Just read it. Trust me. It’s one of the best young adult books I’ve read in a long time, and probably one of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year (and I’ve read a lot of books this year).
★★★★★ – I loved The Grace Year! It’s just such a great book. This one deserves the hype, trust me. And go read it. (Also, if it helps at all, it was just optioned by Sony and Elizabeth Banks for a film adaptation, so you should probably read it before the movie comes out. Right?) Seriously, go read it.
The Grace Year will be available in bookstores starting October 8. You can preorder a copy on Amazon now.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose The Grace Year as one of your two free books.
This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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