TITLE: Wilder Girls
AUTHOR: Rory Power
PUBLICATION DATE: July 9, 2019
A feminist Lord of the Flies about three best friends living in quarantine at their island boarding school, and the lengths they go to uncover the truth of their confinement when one disappears. This fresh, new debut is a mind-bending novel unlike anything you’ve read before.
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.
Wilder Girls is honestly a book I probably wouldn’t have picked up if I hadn’t heard so many people hyping it up. I was planning on borrowing it from the library after release to see if I would enjoy it, but then received an ARC through Netgalley. I’m so glad I did because I devoured it. I didn’t know what to really expect going into it. I never had to read Lord of the Flies while in high school because of being out my last year of high school so I don’t have that to compare it to.
Rory Power has posted a list of content and trigger warnings on her website. I was not aware of most of them before going into the story. To be concise and accurate, I will be listing them exactly as she has on her website. I appreciate that she has compiled this list of warnings and has even left a note at the bottom of the page that states the list will be updated as necessary and if someone finds something that should have a content warning or trigger warning, do not hesitate to contact her.
- Graphic violence and body horror. Gore.
- On the page character death, parental death, and animal death, though the animals are not pets.
- Behavior and descriptive language akin to self harm, and references to such.
- Food scarcity and starvation. Emesis.
- A scene depicting chemical gassing.
- Suicide and suicidal ideation.
- Non-consensual medical treatment.
“Some days it’s fine. Others it nearly breaks me. The emptiness of the horizon, and the hunger in my body, and how will we ever survive this if we can’t survive each other?”
Wilder Girls is told in two POVs throughout the story. I really enjoyed how the switch between points of view were done. Instead of continuously going back and forth between the two characters, we get several chapters from one character and then a switch to the other for a few chapters. Since we stuck with a character for a while, I felt like I was able to connect with each of the girls better.
There is also a unique stylistic choice in how the story was written and how certain things were portrayed. I think this ended up lending well to the creepy vibe that I continuously got from Wilder Girls.
As someone who doesn’t really enjoy horror because I despise jump scares, I actually really enjoyed this story. It was more so a make your skin crawl type of horror with creepiness and bits of the story that mess with your mind.
“We don’t get to choose what hurts us.”
This is definitely a story about finding out the truth about what is really happening on the island. I appreciate that Wilder Girls starts off where it did. Instead of the story leading up to the quarantine, it starts off after the quarantine has happened. We learn about the time leading up to quarantine in bits and pieces throughout the story. I liked that as the reader, you are kind of just dropped right in the middle of everything happening.
At the start of the story, there are two teachers and only a handful of students. The students each have daily duties around the school and island. There is a select group of students that are chosen to be the girls who go with one of the teachers to collect the supplies that are delivered to the island periodically. As time has gone on, the quality and quantity of the supplies has worsened. As things get worse, the girls are almost starving on the island and they ration supplies to make it to the next delivery as they each await their next outbreak.
“They cycle in seasons, each one worse than before until we can’t bear it anymore.”
The outbreaks were hard to read at times. They’re detailed and intense. If the girls survive an outbreak, they’re left with a physical reminder of it. These are things like: glowing hair, silver scales, bones protruding through the skin, or eyes fused shut with “something” growing underneath.
I found it interesting that there’s a sort of rite of passage when a girl has her first flare up. There’s a total our changing bodies sort of vibe. Girls are all too aware of body transformations of puberty. The Tox is even more than that. Girls continue to die and it’s unclear as to what is causing it, but while affecting the girls, it’s also affecting the creatures who inhabit that island. It has caused creatures like fox, bobcats, and bears to be a little larger, to be more aggressive, and to be misshapen like the girls.
“There used to be horses, four of them, but early in the first season, we noticed how the Tox was starting to get inside them like it got inside us, how it was pushing their bones through their skin, how it was stretching their bodies until they screamed. So we led them out to the water and shot them.”
I unfortunately am unable to compare it to the things that the book has been pitched to be parts of as I haven’t read of Lord of the Flies. I’ve also seen people compare it to Annihilation, which is something else I’m not familiar with.
I absolutely loved the characters in the story and how we got multiple points of view to show different parts of the island. There’s a lot of tension and some amazing authoritative moves and decisions. The ending of the book though. It left a lot unresolved for me. Many things in the story are wrapped up, but I definitely found myself wanting a little more. This has been confirmed by the author to be a standalone. She hopes to come back to the world someday, but currently there is nothing scheduled for a continuation of Wilder Girls.
I did really enjoy Wilder Girls though! This is a solid 4.5 book for me. The ending wasn’t exactly what I was wanting from it which is why I knocked the book down a little bit. This had just enough horror for this newbie to the genre and definitely messed with my mind throughout the story. I absolutely can’t wait for more from Rory Power in the future and can’t wait for more people to read her debut novel.
Rory Power grew up in New England, where she lives and works as a crime fiction editor and story consultant for TV adaptation. She received a Masters in Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia, and thinks fondly of her time there, partially because she learned a lot but mostly because there were a ton of bunnies on campus.
She is represented by Daisy Parente at Lutyens & Rubinstein and Kim Witherspoon at InkWell Management.