Book review – Wilder Girls by Rory Power

wildergirls

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.

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Short story – What I wish I could have done

Couldn’t get all the me-too’s and sexual harassment/abuse stories I read about yesterday out of my head. This morning I opened up my word processor and this came out. Based on a personal experience.

Night_train

It had been a long night. I put my headphones on and played some calming, melancholy music. Two hours till the night train reached its destination. It was pitch black outside. Only every once in a while, a light flashed by.

I took out a book, even though I felt too tired to read. I placed my bag on the seat next to me and stretched my legs out. I comfortably occupied almost the whole four-seat area. If only I had a cup of tea. A cup of tea would have made this perfect.

I saw some movement from the corner of my eye. Someone pushed my legs aside. I looked up from my book. A young man sat in the seat opposite me. He smiled. Almost the whole coupe was empty and this guy had to force himself into my cosy space. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t sit somewhere else.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

“Fine,” I mumbled and turned back to my book.

“You’re very pretty. You have a unique look about you. Not like the other girls.”

I ignored him. Hopefully he would get the hint.

“Can I have your number?”

I kept my eyes fixed on the page.

“Those are cool shoes. I’ve never seen anything like them.” He touched my knee. It felt like a hit from a sledgehammer.

I wiggled my legs away.

“You’re very pretty.”

I glanced up reluctantly. “If you don’t mind, I would rather be alone right now.” I cringed at the polite words that came out. I should have said: ‘Get the fuck away from me, creepy motherfucker!’ Why am I always compelled to be polite?

“Can I have your number?” This asshole already had his phone out.

“Please, I would rather be alone.” I still had my headphones on. I couldn’t believe this was happening through the divine tones of Lana del Rey. I hoped I wouldn’t associate her music with this creep later.

“Give me your number.”

I stuffed my book in my bag. “Fine, I’ll leave.”

He shot back, his eyes widening. His mouth fell open with puckered lips. For a moment, I felt guilty for offending him. I hated that guilt.

He recovered. “No, don’t. I’ll leave.” He inclined his head towards me and took my hand between his. “I’ll leave.” He sounded so earnest. Yet he didn’t let go of my hand.

White-hot rage boiled up inside me. With my free hand, I reached for something in my bag. The lights crackled.

*

Half an hour later the conductor walked past. “Tick—What happened here?” She gasped.

I looked down at the cleaver in my hands. It was red and sticky. My lovely floral dress was ruined too. The seat opposite me was the worst though. Like a red waterfall had crashed over it. Then there were the body parts…

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I didn’t mean to make such a mess. It was just—He wouldn’t leave. Why couldn’t he take a hint?”

“He harassed you?”

I nodded.

“Oh, honey. Are you alright?” The conductor’s eyes were full of sympathy.

“I suppose. It could have been worse.”

The conductor shook her head. “Don’t say that. These things should never happen. No woman should have their safety compromised for merely being outside and alone.”

The cleaver was still warm.

“Look, there’s a bathroom up there. Why don’t you go and get yourself cleaned up? I’ll take care of this.” The conductor motioned to the carnage.

“Thank you.” I smiled weakly. “Thank you so much.”

The conductor shrugged. “Like I said, these things should never happen.”