• Hardcover: 355 pages
• Published: June 2016 by Random House
• Source: Purchased
Goodreads Description: Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.
Seems like this book is everywhere lately. It’s gotten lots of hype – or at least, lots of hype that I’ve seen. Reading the description, I wasn’t at all interested, but I kept seeing it on bestseller lists. So, I read it.
I’m really conflicted about this book. Someone asked me a couple days ago what I thought about it, whether it was good. I struggled to answer, because it’s not that cut and dry for me.
Make no mistake, The Girls is well-researched and well-written. Despite my initial lack of interest from the description, Cline’s writing pulled me in and kept me reading. At times, it was lyrical. At times, horrifying. But that’s the history the story is based on – both compelling and appalling.
The Girls is a fictionalized account of the Manson Family, and centers on a teenage girl’s experience with the cult and subsequent remembrance. I knew next to nothing going into the book. It was a little like watching a bus crash – I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t look away.
It’s a powerful book, and one I think has an important place in literature. Sure, I had complaints. I hated Evie as an adult, wanted to grab her and shake her. I hated her as a teenager, how blinded she was. I hated the situation she was in, but I think you’re supposed to. And I hated myself for empathizing with her.
Because I did. Oh, I did. Her indecision, her desperation, her rebellion. I felt it all, and I cheered her for it while I simultaneously judged her. This, I think, is Cline’s crowning achievement: creating a character readers both love and loathe.