Review of ‘The Girls’ by Emma Cline, by Kia from the Halfassedhorrorcast
Rating – 5/5
This is officially the first post on this website and hopefully the first of more to come! I love to read and am constantly reading books, comics, or graphic novels. So it’s fitting that my first post is a book review. While this book doesn’t fall under the genre of horror, it’s a fitting inclusion as our main character is essentially involved with a murderous cult. The book is The Girls, the first novel from Emma Cline. It initially got my attention from the cover because I do judge books by their covers. It’s a simple cover – a somewhat pixelated red, white, and blue picture of a girl’s face. It looks like she’s wearing shades, and she has a white heart scribbled on her forehead. She’s not smiling but just looking straight ahead. Then the description got my attention – it’s basically a fictionalized telling of the women involved in a 1960’s cult led by a “charismatic leader.” From this, it’s obvious it’s about Charles Manson’s female followers.. However, all names have been changed to protect the “innocent.” The novel is specifically the story of one of those girls, fourteen-year-old Evie Boyd, and the dissatisfaction she feels in her home life and how, as a result, she is so easily seduced by the cult girls to be a part of their group. Manson, who in the novel goes by the name of Russell, is a part of the story, as is the well-known murders, the details of which have also been changed.
However, Russell and the murders are more of an afterthought. After all, the novel is called “The Girls,” and that truly is the focus of this story as it not only deals with Evie’s transformation into a cult member but also on the ideas and expectations about how girls and women fit into society, particularly in their dealings with boys and men. For example, Cline writes about Evie’s mom and how she deals with being separated from Evie’s father; about the new (and younger) love interest involved with Evie’s father and the impact she has on Evie; and about an older Evie and her interactions with a young girl that reminds Evie of her younger self. After reading the novel, I started thinking of that pixelated face on the cover as a representation of females in general rather than just a depiction of a particular character. Even the white heart shape on the forehead is dismissed in the novel as a simple, girlish scribble.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book, and it was a book that I was always eager to return to. I thought it was well-written, and I enjoyed the pace. At times, it could be a bit heavy-handed, particularly when dealing with male-female relationships. For example, present-day Evie spends time with a younger girl who’s involved in a very unhealthy relationship with an older man, and Evie’s mother goes to some extremes after separating from her husband. However, I think Cline does a great job in giving us insight into Evie’s world, how the various characters respond to and challenge societal norms, and Evie’s own responses and challenges lead her down the path she chooses.
Kia is a cohost of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’