Publisher : Delacorte Press
Genre : Young Adult |Horror
Page Count: 353
Synopsis : 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. (from Goodreads)
*I received an arc of this book from the publisher in exchange of an honest review*
CW: Gore and body horror, guns, murder, parental death, animal death, self-harm, kidnapping and non-consensual human experimentation, chemical gassing, suicide, starvation, emetophobia.
I’ve been wanting and praying and hoping to read this book for months on end and now I read and… wow was it a ride. In the good sense. In the sense of this book got under my skin, made me want to jump out of it and flee this earth altogether to go live in some uninhabited planet by myself because everything happening was Too Much. I’m realizing now that this intro doesn’t make any sense, so let me backtrack and write down my thoughts in a semi-structured manner.
The writing in Wilder Girls is beautiful in the most haunting of ways, it’s the kind that gets your heart racing because of how it drives the point home and gets you feeling every emotion the characters feel. The biggest chunk of it is written from Hetty’s point of view, but we also get a few chapters from Byatt’s. At first glance, both characters’ voices seem very similar but two sentences in, it was clear to me that I was not reading from the same character’s perspective, there was a slight shit in voice and sentence composition that was masterful and all that was needed to make for two fully fleshed out characters. Additionally, there was a shift in sentence structure to fit the headspace/conditions the girls were in and that was literal genius? Why have I never seen that before? It enhanced my reading experience tenfolds.
Ths is the kind of horror book I like reading, not the kind that likes to take you by surprise (because that never works on me). But the kind that has writing that makes you feel uneasy, that has you doubting everything and everyone around it, the kind that makes you shift in your seat. It’s very graphic (seriously, the description of gore is…a lot) and has a very claustrophobic feel to it because these girls are contained on an island with no way out, no way of communicating with the outside world, very limited supplies (including food), only themselves as company and a disease no one knows anything about that’s taking them out one at a time.
This book has one of my favourite things to read about int the world: Complicated female relationships (both platonic and not) centering messy girls. Especially if queer. Being in such “closed” quarters doesn’t make for the best basis for healthy relationships, nor healthy mental health so the characters have this wilderness to them that’s very…primal and disturbing at times but I feel like I loved them all the more for it. The sense of right and wrong is a bit blurred, the limits and boudaries of what’s acceptable and “moral” are as well and all rules are bended and broken when all these girls are trying to do is survive.
Wilder Girls follows a glorious trio of girls who are Hetty, Byatt and Reese. Hetty is the main MC (and the girl on the cover), she has an eye closed shut by the Tox and a lot of soft feelings for both Byatt and Reese, for one of which they are…very not platonic. Although not my favourite character (that would be Reese), I loved reading from her point of view because of how much she feels and how much she lets herself feel. It was refreshing in the best ways, especially with their circumstances, to which the logical response for most would be to shut down all emotions. She’s caring, protective of her friends and the kind of person you want in your corner because once you have her love and affection, she’d do anything for you. And I mean anything.
Then we have Byatt whom…I haven’t figured out much about to be honest, besides the fact that she has two spines stacked on top of each other of course. And I don’t think it’s a mistake on the author’s part or lack of character craft but it just made perfect sense in the context of the book. Let’s just say that we little we do see of her isn’t in the ideal circumstances fo rher to let her personality shine through. What I did grasp about her though, I loved. She’s smart, resourceful and hell bent on survival and those are really important characteristics when a mysterious disease is killing you slowly if you ask me.
Then we have Reese of the clawed hand, my favourite grumpy bean in this book. Although calling her a bean is a bit misleading, but I love her and hence call her a bean. Reese is grumpy and rough around the edges, rarely smiles but when she does she lights up your (or Hetty’s) whole world. She feels a lot too but she’s on the other end of the spectrum from Hetty in a way that she represses it, doesn’t show it and seems coldhearted and emotionless when a lot of the time she’s either having an internal gay crisis or falling apart at the seems. And. Listen. I want to be her big sister and protect her, that’s how much I love her. Her relationship with Hetty pulled at my heart strings and used it as a punching ball, they care so much about each other but there’s also so much that happens to them and between them that makes *them* complicated and just!!! *cries* I loved them together so much and just wanted them to be happy forever.
The only slight criticism that I have for completely a selfish reason is that I wanted more closure. I understand and appreciate the way this book ended from a craft and realism point of you, but the reader in me who got invested in the characters is sad. The way this ended felt like it was opening possibilities for a sequel, and a great one with more creepy and possibly sciency shenanigans. But alas, this is a standalone and this is one of those rare cases where I do want a sequel.
There was also an amazing commentary on a very timely issue which was done so subtly it took me by surprise when it was revealed but it also all made sense and felt like a fool for not realizing beforehand. I’m keeping things vague because I want you all to have the full experience but just know that it was amazing and terrifiying and made me want to live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere forever.
Do I recommend?
OF COURSE I DO! Especially if you’re not big on horror and do not like the scare-jump kind. This will make your skin crawl. It also reminded me of Sawkill Girls in the relationships between characters and vibe so if you like that one you’ll definitely love this one.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Wilder Girls? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.