I picked this book up for the delicious cover and the title. The synopsis intrigued me all the more. All girls school, closed off from the world? Dystopian setting with a strange infection and nature running wild? Gore and queer romance? Yes, please.
I devoured this in four days, which is superhumanly fast for my abysmal current average reading time. It took me a few chapters to really get into it, but once I did it wouldn’t let me go.
First of all, I love, love, love the setting and premise of the novel. Like I already mentioned, it’s set at an all-girls school, on an island, quarantined because of an unusual infection on the island. The girls and remaining teachers are fighting for their lives against the wild, wild dangerous woods around them, as they wait for a possible cure from the authorities. At the center of it are Hetty and her two best friends, Byatt and Reese.
The relationships between these girls are beautiful. They care so much for one another and are willing to do everything for each other in this cruel world. The girls themselves are brave, compassionate, tough, determined, raw, insecure and have dark, believable impulses. They’re real and relatable. At least, the three main characters are. The secondary characters didn’t leave much of an impression on me.
As for the plot, I love the many twists and turns it takes. It starts off fairly simple and straightforward, but early on we discover that not everything is as it seems. From there on it goes in so many directions that you don’t expect. Sometimes it does get a bit messy though, both in good and bad ways. The ending is also a little disappointing. Too much disappears off the stage, in favour of the main characters. I do love the revelation about the infection we get at the end; I got chills at the very possible possibility of it. The last scene is lovely too.
One of the few things that bothers me in this book is the writing style. Mostly, it’s great. Beautiful in its simplicity, visual, visceral. The more experimental, open-ended style of Byatt’s chapters is brilliant and fits so well with what she’s going through. At other times it’s redundant and empty drama, which is a shame as so much else in this is so good.
I’d recommend Wilder Girls to anyone interested in unique, female-centered dystopian and horror stories.