“Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiates heat.
Until she notices them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.
And at the centre, Russell. Russel and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.
Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?
I don’t think I was alone in anticipating this book. You can tell just by reading some of the reviews on the novel’s Goodreads page that a lot of people have been reading it, and you can also tell that people have got pretty divided opinions on it. The general consensus seems to be that the book wasn’t as good as the marketing would have you believe.
Personally, I liked it. The main thing I liked about it is that it doesn’t shy away from the reality of its topic. A lot of the time, I think YA novels come at pretty difficult topics in a non-confrontational, kind of sugarcoated way, but this book doesn’t really have any of that. It’d be very easy to make a book like this exploitative and victim-blaming, but it never goes down that road, and that’s a good thing.
The second thing I liked was how relatable the main character is. It’s been a while since I was a teenager, but I can remember feeling out of place, in my hometown. The book works with the premise that where you were born might not be the place you’ll thrive or be happy in. It also runs with the concept that the people in your (potentially small) hometown might not be people you have anything in common with, and the desire to meet new ones. All of this stuff is done incredibly well.
The novel does have a couple of flaws, though. Well, one fairly major flaw. A lot of the time, it does feel a bit overwritten. For example, check out the quote below:
““They didn’t have very far to fall—I knew just being a girl in the world handicapped your ability to believe yourself. Feelings seemed completely unreliable, like faulty gibberish scraped from a Ouija board.”
It’s these slightly wordy similes and metaphors that make the writing a bit cumbersome, and I could do without them. There is a place for writing like that in YA literature, but I think Emma Cline does it a little too often. Readers don’t always need a metaphor or simile to understand what something is like. Sometimes descriptions can work on their own.
Still, this is a pretty enjoyable book and I think Emma Cline will probably go on to write some pretty great books in the future.