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The Girls by Emma Cline
Literary fiction

The Girls

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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Member thoughts

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All (2296)
Love (693)
Like (1162)
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2351 ratings
  • 29% Love
  • 49% Like
  • 19% Dislike
  • Norton, OH

    I joined BOTM so that I could get this book, and I was not disappointed. The best book I've read in a long time. Evie's character embodies adolescence, and its scary how quickly things can progress.

  • New York, NY

    From the minute I opened this book I decided to isolate myself on the beach for the weekend until I finished it. It was so good and also relatable and fun that I read it in 2 sittings. Highly recommen


    I don’t know why there isn’t more talk about this debut novel. It is so good! Evie, a naive teenager seeking acceptance, gets mixed up with a cult-like group and her life changes forever. So good!

  • Chico, CA

    This novel had a dreamy, Sofia Coppola-movie quality rendered in beautiful language. It is not really about being in a cult. It is about being a girl, and then a woman, understood as only a woman can.

  • Double Springs, AL

    This book is right up my alley. I had this on my reading list a couple months before it was an option for BOTM. So, I was pumped to choose it. It definitely did not disappoint. I enjoyed every second

  • Peachtree City , GA

    Beautifully (albeit a little much at times) written, and immensely overwhelming, The Girls reminded me of how easy it is to fall in love during the summer, especially when you're lacking it elsewhere.

  • San Jose, CA

    Lush writing style. Great coming of age story and analysis of girls who are on the fringes of becoming women and our insecurities which can lead us to surround ourselves with the wrong kind of people.

  • Riverview, FL

    This book was insane. You felt for this girl who did not feel like she belonged and you, too, were curious about the people from the Ranch. This was hard to read in parts but you just had to keep on.

  • Seattle , WA

    A re-imagining/ re-telling of the manson family cult murders. I loved this book. The story was so interesting and almost dream-like. I felt many emotions and it provoked many introspective thoughts.

  • Schererville, IN

    I liked this book when I initially read it and was interested in the story. In the days after I finished it, however, I realized how much I truly enjoyed it. My mind kept wandering back to the book!

  • Kansas City, MO

    There are some gorgeous sentences in this book and plenty of lady anger. It's timely, disturbing, and a little too real. And things for women haven't really improved, even without being in a cult.

  • Pittsburgh, PA

    Amazing. It's about wanting to define & discover yourself - to find your people, your happiness - and the desires of adolescents. There are queer themes that I would've loved to see explored more!

  • New Franklin, OH

    This book is very similar to Dianne Lakes memoir about the real Manson family and murders. However I appreciated the older Evie narrating . And I’m still intrigued by the 1960’s so I loved it

  • Mechanicsburg, PA

    This novel is definitely on my top 5 list of BOTM favorites. What an intriguing story, told from an omniscient perspective, and it ends with everything tied up in a nice little bow. Perfect read.


    A very unique view into the Charles Manson cult. It read like a fiction novel because the names and some details are different. Knowing that it is based on the true events made it more thrilling.

  • Columbus , OH

    I have read a lot about Charles Manson and The Family so I was a little skeptical when I first received this book. I was pleasantly surprised with how well written and effortless this book was.

  • Washington, DC

    I loved how this was a Charles Manson-inspired book without pandering to the drama of being in a cult. The book shows how an average adolescent girl can get swept up by intrigue. So satisfying.

  • Mechanicsville, VA

    I loved the fact that through these characters we were able to experience what a cult truly feels like from the inside. The overwhelming need to please mixed with going against your own morals.

  • Puyallup, WA

    I was hoping for a bit more of a Charles Manson vibe - this book looks at a cult in flashbacks. However, I got the cult fix I wanted from this book. Emma Cline is now an auto-buy author for me!

  • Henrico, VA

    First it perfectly captures the pains of adolescence, then it brews up something incredibly sinister. Addictive and creepy. I couldn't put it down. This is my all-time favorite Book Club read.

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