Wait, and stay alive, and we thought it would be easy.
This book has been on my radar for absolutely ages, and it was when it was chosen for my YA book club April read that I finally picked it up off my shelves. I’m too easily distracted, obviously, because it was just as good as I’d always thought it would be – though maybe reading Wilder Girls in the middle of a pandemic was a little on the nose.
Rating: 4 stars!
Read me for the:
- Body horror and horror horror
- Found family vibes
- F/F romance
- Quarantine fiction for lockdown life
- Trust nobody
Eighteen months ago, the Raxter School for Girls entered a strict quarantine. The Tox stole their lives and their freedom, and a lot more. The teachers died first and then the students caught it, their bodies changing in ways that were strange and unique. The island that was their home is now their prison and they were left to fend for themselves and wait for the cure, though the girls dare not wander outside of the school’s fence – the woods belong to the Tox now and it’s wild and dangerous out there.
When Byatt, her closest friend, goes missing, Hetty strikes out to find her, even if that means breaking quarantine and risking everything. She discovers that there’s more to the Tox than they thought, and to their life at Raxter – and the consequences are further reaching than they could ever have expected.
What did I think?
The way that Rory Power writes is addictive. I knew without hesitation that I was going to want to read more from her. The prose is lyrical and beautiful, and it draws you in, even when discussing gore and body horror. Everything was so vivid, and it made every chapter and twist emotive as hell. I felt like I was on the island with them, looking out at the woods and hearing footsteps down the halls of the school.
The book focuses on three main girls: Hetty, Byatt and Reece. They were nothing like I expected, and I loved them more for that. All three of them were ‘flawed’, and who the hell wouldn’t be? I think we can all identify a little right now with being stuck in a quarantine, no idea when it might end, and imagining being stuck away from any communication, information or food? I wouldn’t be worrying about manners. The flaws they faced, one passive, one violent and the last impulsive and dishonest. They’re real, human flaws, and it made me feel like those characters were real. I also loved that their decision making wasn’t based on heroism. At no point were these girls trying to save the world, or their island, or even their fellow students. They were out to save each other, a team that included only Hetty, Byatt and Reece. It felt selfish and true that after all the hell they’ve been through, they would be so defensive. The romance between Hetty and Reece was subtle but lovely, and I liked that it wasn’t prioritised over everything else happening.
The plot was ridiculously engaging. From the start you suspect that something isn’t quite right, but it wasn’t until a good two-thirds of the way through that the book let you put the clues you had together and find the right answer. It made me feel even more connected with the characters, like I was on the island with them and trying furiously to work out who I could trust – and no wonder they decided they could only trust each other.
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Buy at Hive if you can and support your local indie booksellers! Also available at Waterstones and Amazon.