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.
I don’t exactly remember when or how I discovered this book, whether it was floating around Twitter or I saw it on a blog, but whatever the case, that cover drew me in immediately. Everything about that design screamed for my attention and was begging for me to look closer at it. I went and read the synopsis and it sounded like it’d be an epic horror thriller, and I wanted to read it so badly. Everyone I saw on social media was hyping up this book. Everyone who has read it prior to me has raved about it. So I not only had high hopes but high expectations. And we all know what happens when you have high expectations: you’re eventually let down. It’s funny because the story itself didn’t let me down and intrigued me so much, but it was the mechanics and how certain aspects of the storytelling were handled that let me down and overall didn’t resonate with me the way that other books have. This really might be a case of this book isn’t for me and my tastes and that’s why I personally didn’t like it. Because again, the story itself is really good. The execution? Not so much.
- As I said, I really did enjoy the overall story that was presented here in Wilder Girls. The idea of a school on an island being completely quarantined due to some inexplicable disease, and the students being affected in various ways of the disease, had such an intriguing power to it. Where did the disease come from? Why is it only affecting the students? Is there a way to cure it? The entire book, you’re wanting to find answers and learn everything you can about this disease, the Tox. It was interesting to see how the Tox acted differently in each girl and how they all seemed to morph and alter into different things. Some girls would change physically on the outside while others would change on the inside. Some would lose body parts, some would gain them. Not one person had the same infliction from the Tox and I think that showed how completely random and unpredictable the disease was. It was that kind of unpredictability that made you want to keep reading to find out if there’s any potential end to it and collect all the answers you could. But what was most interesting to me, at least, was how “societal” the girls of Raxter became after the Tox happened. The teachers and headmistress all tried to keep the same order and routine of school after it happened to retain a bit of normalcy to it all, but eventually with people dying and not being able to go on as it once was, they had to learn to live differently. They created jobs and shifts so all the girls had some kind of responsibility to keep everyone safe, whether it be Gun Shift, which was some kind of patrol, or retrieving rations for your group. There was a system in place to keep the girls safe and to teach them to defend themselves if necessary, and it was all done without any kind of chaos or power struggles, for the most part. This part of the story, and the overall story that was being told, I felt was really well done and beyond creative and while a lot of it was horrifying, it was also pretty interesting.
- I think the biggest reason why this book didn’t work for me was the way that Rory Power writes. I wouldn’t say I’m selective when it comes to the type of prose I like, but I can tell you that I don’t like Power’s. It’s hard for me to describe exactly what it is or why I don’t like it, but there were a lot of times where the narration felt very “matter of factly” and was like it was describing a mundane life step by step, if that makes any sense. Like, there were times where Hetty would be describing what she was doing by saying “it’s dark now” and almost describe what’s around her or in front of her in an almost listicle way. I think the best way I can describe it is that Power’s writing was almost like reading the way slam poetry sounds. There were either short sentences full of facts or eons of run-on sentences, and the Oxford comma was put to use and then some. I understand that this was an uncorrected ARC I was reading, but I can guarantee that a lot of these commas will remain because that’s just Power’s style. And it’s not a style that I like. There were also instances where it seemed like Power was afraid of using conjunctions and sentences would make so much more sense if they were used or inserted, but they just weren’t used. And then when we would be with Byatt, the style was borderline nonsensical and punctuation and structure just didn’t matter; I understand it was purposeful to reflect what was happening to Byatt but it could’ve been done better. Words and phrases were repeated probably for emphasis that wasn’t entirely necessary and borderline gave me a headache, wishing I was out of her POV. Overall, the book’s writing made the reading process feel choppy and due to my annoyance at the writing I couldn’t focus on the story at hand the way I wanted to.
- I think there are two major mistakes with this story. The first is that we’re thrown into it almost a year and a half since the Tox first flared up and we’re dropped right in the middle of everything. There’s no buildup to what’s happened prior to the first sentence, no kind of prologue to get you in the right headspace, and really no proper introduction to everything. That’s not true, you’re thrown into the plot and then spend the next 60 or so pages reading about what the Tox has changed, over and over again. I kept wanting to make a joke of how talking about the Tox was like its own meme, of how “everything used to be different before the Tox” and that’s how I knew it was getting out of hand. I wonder if maybe we had some kind of prologue to slowly ease us into the Tox and the world of Raxter, it would’ve been easier to swallow and therefore provide better understanding and context. But that leads me to my next point about the ending, and that’s that there really wasn’t an ending. It’s not quite that you’re left on a cliffhanger in this book, since it’s a standalone, but you’re left with almost the same amount of unanswered questions that you have when starting the book. First of all, Hetty, Reese, and Byatt manage to escape Raxter but we don’t know if they’re going to live, since it ends with them sitting in the middle of the water. We don’t know if Byatt is truly ok. We don’t even know if Raxter itself is still standing because the last few pages we were told that jets were flying overhead, most likely to destroy what’s still standing after the bear attack. But beyond that, we really don’t get any answers about the Tox. Sure, we apparently learn that it’s due to some kind of parasite inhabiting each girl, and that’s how the Tox builds and changes inside you, but it doesn’t answer how that boy got infected after Byatt kissed him. It also doesn’t explain how it got inside of the girls, and the teachers, and the animals, and the plants, and how it changes you. We never know where it came from, or how it can come in contact with you, or how to find it. And I’m sorry but I’m to believe a series of doctors and scientists who have been working on researching this for a year and a half haven’t made this discovery but three girls randomly can? That doesn’t make any sense. And finally, the thing that pissed me off most, is that there’s no potential cure or any kind of scenario where this Tox is beatable. There’s no hope. We went through a whole book learning about what the Tox has done and who it has taken, and there’s not an ounce of hope that maybe not everyone will die in the end. It kind of left me sitting there wondering what the point was. This book needed more to the story, both at the start and the end, to become even close to satisfying and that’s why I’m dissatisfied, honestly.
- I’m not sure if the characters were supposed to be likeable or not, but I didn’t really feel anything for them, and the relationships didn’t quite help either. I don’t know why it was Hetty who was one of our two main POVs and why it was her who was meant to be the catalyst in all of this. It made sense for Byatt to have a POV to see what was being done to her, but they could’ve been swapped out for other characters interchangeably. I didn’t feel any kind of connection to either of them, and there was never any kind of depth or even true characterization that I saw. And Reese ended up being a total enigma throughout and I think her purpose was to be that unsolvable character, but again, no characterization. And I appreciate…whatever that was between Hetty and Reese, but as I constantly say, when people are dying on a scale like this, there’s no time for a romance, if we can call it that. I just think it should’ve been left out of the book because it really added nothing to it overall. I would’ve said that about anyone here and I’m not just attacking Hetty and Reese. It just felt extremely out of place and because it’s barely touched upon, and never fully explored or developed, it didn’t have a point to me.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- I really tried with this book, but it ended up just not being my cup of tea. But when you get a book that basically has no beginning and no end, and all you’re left with is the middle, what do you really expect? I think that Power had a great idea here, but that idea needed to be shaped more than it was if you want to be left feeling satisfied. She has potential as a creator, but not quite the potential as a storyteller for me.
BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: Wilder Girls
Author: Rory Power
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
Until next time,
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