It’s a dream for many of us: write a novel and publish it. It’s an absurd fantasy to write said novel, get a well-known publisher to print it and make it a hype and bestseller. Well, that crazy fantasy now is reality for Emma Cline. The Girls is Cline’s debut and the reviews are raving. The rights to a movie have already been sold. So does The Girls live up to it’s reputation?
The cover of The Girls catches your eye, no matter if you’ve heard of this book or not. A bright blue and red cover featuring a girl with sunglasses. There’s a good chance though that you have heard of this book, with it’s good promotion and great reviews. Let’s start twith the blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:
At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.
I have this nagging suspicion that hyped books are just not for me. For instance, I thought The Da Vinci Code was just an OK thriller, but not fenomenal. I genuinely liked The Fault in Our Stars but forgot about it when I read better Young Adult novels and I didn’t really like any other John Green (who was a hype on his own) novel as much. The Girl on the Train was a pretty decent novel but it was just that and nothing more. And recently, I didn’t quite understand why Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt got such amazing reviews. The Girls is the same for me. I think it’s a combination of expecting too much, relying too much on reviews and this just not being the book for me.
Yes, the Girls is written really well and I read it pretty fast when I got into the story. It’s hard to realise that this is a debut novel. The thing is, it’s just a very boring story with very boring characters. It’s obvious the main inspiration behind The Girls is Charles Manson and his Manson Family. For those unaware of that story: The Manson family killed a lot of people; the Tate murders being the most famous ones. If you want to read about creepy people, read up on these wacko’s. But back to The Girls. In the heart of the story, there is a cult of hippies, led by the charismatic Russell. From pretty early on, it’s clear his followers (mostly girls) have done some gruesome things. The story takes places in the present day and in the sixties, when main character Evie is 14 years old.
The Girls in the cult
I never felt for Evie. She is a bored, spoiled 14-year old. Her main problem is that her parents recently divorced. For me, it would have made the story better if Evie had some bigger problems. Also, it seems that 14 is way too young for all the things she does in the novel, and it never seems like she is more mature than the average 14-year old. It just wasn’t realistic for me. So the main character is unrealistic, bland and unrelatable. It’s hard to like a book when you don’t like the main character.
The other girls in the cult are just very plain. There hardly is any backstory for them, and they don’t grow. They just stay the same, flat, boring and plain. Evie is under a spell by one of the girls but it never goes any further than her looks. More backstory for this Suzanne would have been welcome. The Evie in the future is maybe even more boring and it’s not quite clear to me why she is in the book, other than make clear how she ended up. That could have been done of with a epilogue.
Also, and now I am just being very superficial, it would have been great to read more about the night of doom for the girls, but since Cline doesn’t put Evie there, it’s just over in a paragraph. Reading more on that subject would certainly have made the book more interesting for me. I think Cline wanted to make the book more about the dynamics of the cult, but that just didn’t work for me. Cline is a terrific writer and I will keep her on my radar. All in all, this is a well written debut Cline should be proud of, but for me it was way too boring and most of all, overhyped.