This summer I went to a book event with Casey McQuiston and Taylor Jenkins Reid (yes, it was totally awesome). I love both of their books so much. So when TJR asked Casey what book she’d recently read and loved, I knew I needed to read that book. Her answer: Wilder Girls by Rory Power. To be honest, I might have bought a copy based on the cover alone, but an endorsement from Casey McQuiston is really all I needed. And based on this, I will trust all of her book recs from now on. Because I LOVED it.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
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.
Have I mentioned I love weird books? Because I really love weird books. And Wilder Girls is definitely on the weirder end of the spectrum. It starts off weird, and then gets even more weird. Which is around the same time I started getting really into the story. The bizarre elements of this novel reminded me of Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation – a lot of things kind of don’t make sense, but at least the characters are trying to figure them out with you. And it is the characters that make Rory Power’s book stand out.
I really liked all of the characters. The three main characters were a great mix of strong and vulnerable. It’s not a huge surprise that Hetty was my favorite, since she’s the one we get to know best; I just felt more connected to her than the others. But I also loved Byatt and Reece, and the friendships between all three. They were complex and real, and it brought a more human side to a book that has a lot of non-human things going on. I also really liked how there was a little romance, but it wasn’t a major plot point. I feel like romance is so often a bigger part of the story than it needs to be (especially LGBT+ romance – as in this case – and especially in YA fiction) and there are so many more important things going on here. Like cannibalistic deer. But it did add a little bit of lightness and hope to an otherwise pretty dark book, so I appreciated that it was part of the story, but that it also wasn’t unnecessarily prominent.
And yes, this book is DARK. I read a lot of dark things, and this is up there. It’s definitely YA, but I think the violence and gore alone makes it borderline adult (seriously, maybe don’t read this if you can’t handle a lot of blood). But the darkness is what makes this book so great. Like I said, I read a lot of dark books (especially during the month of October), and this one definitely made me cringe a few times. But isn’t that the point of reading scary things?
★★★★★ – I loved Wilder Girls. Shout out to Casey McQuiston for recommending it (if you haven’t read Red, White & Royal Blue yet, seriously go do it right now). This book was dark and really gross and extremely weird and completely awesome. I would highly recommend it, especially if you’re looking for a spooky Halloween read that isn’t too scary. I can’t wait for Rory Power’s next book!
Wilder Girls is available in bookstores now. You can order a copy on Amazon (the hardcover is currently 40% off!).
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Wilder Girls as one of your two free books.
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