Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Published by Delacorte Press on July 9, 2019
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg: 3.87 (as of 2019-07-28)
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.
A feminist Lord of the Flies about three best friends living in quarantine at their island boarding school, and the lengths they go to uncover the truth of their confinement when one disappears. This fresh, new debut is a mind-bending novel unlike anything you’ve read before.
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.
Wilder Girls thrusts you into the midst of an epidemic unlike any you will have encountered before. The story is centered around a group of three friends who have all fallen prey to the Tox, which has overtaken their boarding school as well as the island it sits upon. Many lives have been claimed by the Tox, both students and teachers alike. The girls have become quite accustomed to the situation, and seem to have accepted their fates.
Part of what I adored was how original the Tox was. I think we’ve seen plenty of sci-fi stories focusing on diseases, but Wilder Girls took this to a whole other level. We aren’t fed much info about the plague, which makes it feel quite mysterious, but its result is a whole lot of body horror that plays out differently in each girl. And believe me when I say it is a LOT of body horror. This book is really not for the faint of heart.
At first I had a bit of trouble discerning the differences between the characters themselves. It took me quite a bit to become attached to them and their relationships. The three girls at the center of the book kind of blurred together in my mind until about a third through. Luckily, I felt this issue was resolved and came to love them all in their own ways.
Also, believe the hype when it comes to how queer this book is. Hetty, one of the POV characters, is bi/pan/queer (she mentions liking both boys and girls, but no label) and Reese, another one of the characters, self-identifies as queer. Byatt, the third in the trio, doesn’t have her sexuality mentioned at all as far as I remember. There is a f/f romance that is not the focus of the story at all, but was very cute and did add a lot!
Overall, I think this was just a lovely sapphic YA horror novel that gave off some serious Annihilation vibes. If any of that sounds interesting to you, you’ll probably adore it. While I’d love a sequel (or a spinoff?), I do think the ending left things tied up quite nicely. I’m impressed by this debut novel and am quite excited to see what Rory Power puts out next!