The Girls by Emma Cline (Book Review)

The GirlsThe Girls by Emma Cline

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: chick-lit, coming-of-age, feminism, fictional-history, hashish-and-flower-power, popular fiction, mfa-style, true-crime, women

I have mixed feelings about this book, a fictionalization of a young girl’s flirtatious affair with the cult that would “murder the Sixties,” as Steven L. Jones wrote. The book is not so much about the Manson family and the Tate-LaBianca murders as it is about a young girl’s adolescent whinging (which we all went through, I’m not holding it against her) and how she was able to find a cult like that so attractive. Susan Atkins, aka Suzanne, is the star of this show.

Fourteen-year-old Evie Boyd has an odd awareness of every nuance of the world around her, for one so disconnected from it. Cline has an uncanny ability to capture the essence of a moment, to distill sensory input down to its ions. At times it is evocative and lovely. At other times it makes the story move very slowly, and keeps it from being the psych thriller I was hoping for.

The whole feminine thing? Nailed it:

That was part of being a girl–you were resigned to whatever feedback you’d get. If you got mad, you were crazy, and if you didn’t react, you were a bitch. The only thing you could do was smile from the corner they’d backed you into. Implicate yourself in the joke even if the joke was always on you.


At that age, I was, first and foremost, a thing to be judged, and that shifted the power in every interaction onto the other person.

What annoyed the crap out of me were all the incomplete sentences. Freakin’ everywhere. I actually read a lot more of this book than I had to, because I kept rereading fragments trying to find what I’d missed to make the sentence complete, then realizing oh, yeah, she’s doing it again. It’s not quite as irritating as Marisha Pessl’s thrice-cursed italics, but close. I’m deducting a star because of this annoying creative choice. We have language rules for a reason, Ms. Cline.

I found out about this book through book club, but I couldn’t get a library copy soon enough for the discussion. I’m not sorry I read it, but I’m glad I decided to miss that meeting and passed on buying the book. Oh, and I love the cover.

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Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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