Emma Cline’s highly-acclaimed debut novel, The Girls, is a coming-of-age story centered on a fictionalized Charles Manson and the notorious Tate-LaBianca murders. Cline’s fictional narrator, Evie Boyd, is adrift in middle age. In 1969, as a 14-year-old, she becomes fixated on an older girl named Suzanne, who is a devotee of a mesmerizing cult leader. Evie follows Suzanne to a ranch outside of LA, where her childlike obsession blossoms as she is drawn into the inner circle of the group’s leader, Russell. Russell is a master manipulator and though he eventually convinces his “girls” to kill for him, he does not engage in some of Charles Manson’s worst atrocities.
Although Cline’s novel is well-written and compelling, I had trouble connecting with either iteration of Evie. As a lonely adolescent, Evie is sympathetic but not blameless. As an adult, Evie seems almost emotionless, as though the only spark in her life was her summer with Suzanne in 1969. In all, I think that Cline’s book is a fine debut that doesn’t quite live up to the hype.
Review Submitted by: Kaitlyn Grigsby-Hall
Challenge: A book written by someone under 30. Book published in 2016