Thank you to Netgalley and Delacorte Press for sending me an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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.
Say hello to the latest in a string of new favorite books! Wilder Girls is lyrical and monstrous and captivating and I love it so much. Rory Power is definitely going to be a name to know in the future of YA.
First I want to scream about the atmosphere. The environmental horror? The body horror? Never things I thought I would enjoy, but I'm somehow addicted to them here. The descriptions of life at the Raxter School made my skin crawl, and I loved it. Power's writing alternates between intense horror and lush prose, a juxtaposition which creates a sense of dread while piquing curiosity about the island.
Parts of this novel reminded me of Sawkill Girls, by Claire Legrand, another book I adore. That sense of "don't go into the woods," that "stay where it's safe" feeling that any main character has to ignore is amplified in Wilder Girls. Certain girls, the Boat Shift, are assigned to go outside of the walls and pick up supplies left by the Navy. On the island, the girls are not the only ones affected. Animals--bears, deer, foxes--are also mutated by the Tox, and are ready to attack. I loved the sense that this island is the only place on Earth with the Tox. That aspect alone is different from almost all other dystopian/contagion novels, and created urgency and desperation for the people outside Raxter to save the girls. The tension is so delicious.
I could spend hours talking about how atmospheric and visceral Raxter is, but then I wouldn't get to talk about the characters! Hetty, Byatt, and Reese are three of the older girls at the school, and are doing their best to survive together. Something grows behind Hetty's eye, Reese's hand is silver-scaled, and Byatt has a painful second spine, but they will still fight to care for each other. I loved their loyalty and unquestionable bond. Thus, when Byatt goes missing and isn't in the infirmary, I wanted to find her just as much as Hetty did.
I only have two wishes about this book: First, that the sapphic relationship that was lauded so much in early promotion was more developed, and that the ending was a bit tighter. If Wilder Girls is getting a sequel, then this would be fine, but as it is, I have so many questions!
Regardless, Wilder Girls earns 5/5 stars from me and is on my list of Best Books of 2019.
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.