We’ve all heard of Cult Classics, but Emma Cline’s “The Girls” takes the term pretty literally. It’s one of those books that everyone seems to rave about and put on their “to-read” lists, and, you guessed it, it’s about a cult.
The book takes place in Northern California in 1969. It follows Evie Boyd, a lonely 14-year-old who sees a group of wild, carefree girls dancing in the park. She’s obsessed with their freedom and beauty, especially that of Suzanne, one of the older girls in the group. She’s drawn into their world and willing to do anything to gain their favor, but her immense feelings have immense consequences, because the girls are part of a cult.
The story is told in two separate timelines: 14-year-old Evie and Evie as an adult, looking back on her youth and the infamous horrors of the cult she was a part of. As you read, you learn more and more about 14-year-old Evie’s submersion into this world. Her obsession with Suzanne, her habitual lying towards her family, her separation from society and the lengths she’d go to surrender her life to these people. It is a dark and disturbing tale, but entirely enthralling.
The cult ends in unthinkable violence, with both that night and Evie’s part in it hidden from the reader until the end of the novel.
Cline’s novel is based off of the Manson family murders, but it takes a different spin on it. Rather than making the actual violence the center conflict, Cline focuses on the everyday psychological conflicts of being a teenage girl. That being said, it feels weird to take the entire story of the Manson family murders and simply change a few names and details around. The novel would have been better executed had she either based the novel entirely off of that event or simply created her own cult.
This confusion aside, Cline writes beautifully and perfectly captures the essence of teendom. Evie is through and through a teenage girl, which is seen in her constant desire to be liked and willingness to do anything for it.
The book is not, however, an easy read. Its’ disturbingly dark and overly sexual, but this is expected due to the subject matter. This graphicness is what pushes the book forward and keeps you reading, because something about the darkness keeps you intrigued. The book became a sensation because of its shock value and label as a page-turner, but I’d argue anything this dark will keep you reading to figure out what’s happening.
Cline also seems to be an expert at purple prose, with every sentence being a lyrical masterpiece. Her style is beautiful and eloquent, but it gets to be a bit much sometimes. The novel winds up feeling dense
and cliche at certain points. Is the writing beautiful? Yes. But it’s not always necessary, and it got a bit tiring to read at times.
Overall, I’d say a lot of the reviews are overrated, but it was definitely an interesting read. It’s a perfectly spooky book for you to read this October.
Courtney Gavitt is a Staff Writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.