In this debut novel, friends Hetty, Byatt, and Reece go to extremes trying to uncover the dark truth about the mysterious disease that has had them quarantined at their boarding school on a Maine island.
Rory Power's debut novel Wilder Girls combines grotesque physical metamorphosis with the intense bonds of love between teenage girls to create a unique variety of feelings-heightened body horror. If you took the creeping biological corruption that one expects from Jeff VanderMeer and the angry, intense teen girl relationships centered by Nova Ren Suma and mashed them together, they would mutate into this—something fresh and horrible and beautiful ... This is a fast read, meant to be gripped tightly in tense fingers so that for the span of a few hours, the Raxter School for Girls is all that exists, and we too are subject to the quarantine. An intense reading experience also further conveys the book's heightened, permeating sense of lush nature turned uncanny, of beautiful fruits riddled with worms and rot, and of love so desperate and strong it teeters on the edge of destruction. As the girls of Raxter are consumed and altered by the Tox, readers will be consumed and altered by Wilder Girls ... Wilder Girls is as sharp as a blade used to cut out corruption, and I think it wants to cut us deep.
The thing you should know before starting Wilder Girls by Rory Power is that it is excruciatingly beautiful and excruciatingly brutal. The prose packs a punch that steals your breath away from the get-go until you’re 300 something pages in and still breathless, unable to catch your breath or still your heart due to the fast-paced plot ... Rory Power vividly captures your attention as she describes the sickness that claimed the lives of half of a boarding school and its teachers. The urgency that I felt while reading made the Tox and the fate of protagonist Hetty and her friends even more important to me ... What blossoms and unfolds between Hetty and Reese, at the worst time, is so stunning and human. I loved the way they found each other. It gave me some hope when it looked like the rest of the book would be bleak ... I was left stunned by the ending in a way that I wasn’t expecting ... if this is Rory Power’s debut, I can’t wait for the rest of her novels. I’m sure they will wreck me (in a good way) just as this one did.
Power’s mesmerizing novel is touched with eerie moments of body horror ... Although the glimmer of a tangled backstory and foreshadowing device are left tantalizingly dangling, Hetty’s fierce loyalty drives the story forward, and the alternating points of view between Hetty and Byatt reveal a rich, dynamic picture of the realities of living on Raxter Island. Power’s evocative, haunting, and occasionally gruesome debut will challenge readers to ignore its bewitching presence.