THE GIRLS – Emma Cline
The Girls is a novel about a teenager, Evie Boyd, leading a normal life in the late 1960s in California. She sees a group of girls in the park and is immediately captivated by them. Evie falls out with her best friend over the summer and becomes drawn into their lives (they live together cult-style on a ranch under the thrall of leader Russell). She becomes particularly obsessed with the older and beautiful Suzanne. Her parents are newly divorced and seem slightly distracted and uninterested in Evie. She is only 14 and unable to really see the situation for what it is although the reader can see disaster coming. The book flips between two time-periods, past and present, where the adult Evie thinks back to the summer she spent at the ranch.
The Girls draws inspiration (if you can call it that) from the famous cults of that time with Russell being based on Charles Manson. This does make for some disturbing reading especially regarding the sexual manipulation of teenage girls. I have always found it difficult to understand how someone may end up in such a situation and this book, with the benefit of adult Evie’s hindsight, does go some way into explaining how an emotionally neglected teenager can get caught up in it. The book uses lovely language which is very descriptive and the author manages to capture the feeling of the time very well. At its core, this book is really about Evie and Suzanne’s relationship and how Evie idolizes the older girl, which was an interesting take on the “cult theme”. The Girls is an enjoyable book overall.
PS: The Girls reminded me of another book about destructive teenage friendships called Marlena by author Julie Bunton which you could also check out.
THE LYING GAME – Ruth Ware
In keeping with the above theme, this book is also about a teenager who falls in with a bad crowd. Similarities do end there though, as this book is very much a thriller. Main character, Isa Wilde, is packed off to boarding school when her mother falls ill and her father is unable to cope. There, she and other newcomer, Fathima, meet up with beautiful Cleo and art teacher’s daughter, Kate, and the four of them quickly become inseparable. They invent a game, called The Lying Game, where they tell lies and award points based on how many people are fooled. Weekends are spent drinking at Kate’s house while her father Ambrose, the art teacher, turns a blind eye despite his obvious love for Kate and her friends. One night, all four girls are expelled from school under mysterious circumstances surrounding Kate’s troubled stepbrother and the disappearance of Ambrose. We know the girls are involved somehow, and details are drip-fed to the reader over the course of the novel. Fast forward 20 or so years and the four girls (now women) reunite when Ambrose’s body is discovered. Someone knows everything about their past and is threatening the four of them.
I did enjoy The Lying Game, perfect for a lazy weekend, a holiday or an aeroplane. It definitely held my attention and I will be reading more books from this author. My only criticism is that that the lying game that the girls play was not sufficiently connected to the main story i.e. Ambrose’s disappearance and so it felt a little disjointed. Other than that, a worthy thriller.
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