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The Girls by Emma Cline
Literary fiction

The Girls

Debut
We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Emma Cline, on your first book!

by Emma Cline

Quick take

Not a cheap, voyeuristic thrill, but a lovely meditation about the helter skelter of girlhood...

Why I love it

Maris Kreizman
Author, Slaughterhouse 90210

My perfect summer read is the kind of page-turner that requires some discipline in order to savor -- read it too quickly and you might miss many lovely nuances. Emma Cline's The Girls is one of those wonderful life-interrupting novels that contains too many perfectly written sentences to read in one sitting, as tempting as it might be.

At first the premise of The Girls gave me pause. I feared that this novel about a teenage girl who joins a Manson Family-like cult in California in the summer of 1969 would be a cheap-thrills horror read, disturbing, the stuff of nightmares. And yes, some of it is macabre (when you're talking about a cult of young women who commit horrific murders for an evil hippie guru, it has to be!) But Cline keeps the violence to a minimum, and only where it's necessary. Turns out, The Girls is not a cheap, voyeuristic thrill at all, but a lovely meditation about the helter skelter of girlhood, about suburban boredom and the agonies of loneliness, of feeling like the life you're really meant to live is way off in a distant future you can barely imagine. And how thrilling it feels when that bit of life suddenly comes into focus, even if you have to squint very hard to see it.

"Maybe this was a better way, even though it seemed alien," thinks 14 year-old Evie upon experiencing the welcoming disarray of the commune for the first time. "To be part of this amorphous group, believing love could come from any direction. So you wouldn't be disappointed if not enough came from the direction you'd hoped." Even though I knew this magical time in Evie's life would end poorly (to say the least!) I couldn't help relating to Evie's longing for connection ? in whatever form it might take.

And through Evie I was able to see how a "good girl" can be drawn towards darkness, feelings anyone who has ever been a teenage girl will relate to on some level. It's these moral (and mortal) ambiguities that drew me in deep and will keep The Girls on my mind long after the summer is over.

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