Publishing Date: June 14, 2016
Publisher: Random House
The Premise from the Publisher: "Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence" (PRH).
My overall thoughts and review: When I first read the premise of this book, it instantly reminded me of Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides, where certain characters fall for the allure of a group of girls. This novel instead takes place in 1960s as opposed to Eugenides' 1970s setting and it has been raved by critics for depicting a story about a protagonist (Evie), getting swept away by a Manson-family cult like group and in particular, one female member, Suzanne. I am a big fan of Eugenides' text and I quite enjoy dream-like narratives about freedom and coming of age. I really enjoyed how the narrative shift from present day to the past and it offers the reader an bigger inside look into Evie's mindset. We see Evie before meeting Suzanne and her group, we see Evie during her time with Suzanne, and we see Evie now after all has been said and done. I really enjoyed the chapters leading up to her meeting Suzanne, because her interactions with her bestfriend, her mother and even her bestfriend's brother, really shaped how the narrative was going to move forward. I felt like it was paced really well and it helped set the tone for the climax of the narrative.
I recently read this article about why the hype surrounding this book is worth it and I would highly recommend you check out that article after reading my review, because the author, Abby Schrieber, more accurately depicted my thoughts in a much more coherent way and how the novel depicts how women were treated in the 60s. There are societal expectations, because also those, like Suzanne who can be seen as complicit in that treatment. I liked that Cline showed the "grittiness" of what they went through and my only criticism would be that, I would've liked to read more about Suzanne and learn more about her because I found her to be the most intriguing character. At moments, you felt a real companionship between her and Evie, and other moments, not so much and I would've liked to learn more about what lead her to the farm. I loved Cline's writing style. The novel immediately drew me in and I really couldn't put it down. I would highly recommend this to readers that enjoy a strong coming of age story and a narrative that tackles the treatment of women.
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)