The Girls

The Girls

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 infamou...

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Title:The Girls
Author:Emma Cline
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Girls Reviews

  • Debbie

    Holy moly, I LOVED this one! My first 5-star book this year!

    I'm a sucker for a female narrator talking about what she had to have, what she didn't get, what she really meant, what she should have done. I like all that talking in the head. I make it sound sort of light and funny but there is nothing light or funny about 14-year-old Evie. She seems to be living a typically boring life when she sees a girl in the park…and an obsession begins. Her ordinary life hits the extraordinary, and pow, right

    Holy moly, I LOVED this one! My first 5-star book this year!

    I'm a sucker for a female narrator talking about what she had to have, what she didn't get, what she really meant, what she should have done. I like all that talking in the head. I make it sound sort of light and funny but there is nothing light or funny about 14-year-old Evie. She seems to be living a typically boring life when she sees a girl in the park…and an obsession begins. Her ordinary life hits the extraordinary, and pow, right in the kisser.

    I worried that this would be just another teenage-girl-angst book. It was so not that (I say in my best valley-girl voice). This is a tale of big-time obsession, not your humdrum harmless crush. Just Evie’s bad luck, really: the crowd is bad and her age works against her. Can Evie help it that her cerebral cortex isn't developed well enough for her to even have a chance of sensing danger or making good decisions? Her moral compass isn't showing a clear direction yet; she doesn't have a clue how dangerous or wrong it all is.

    Evie tells two stories—one about what is happening to her right now and one about what happened to her back then. The back and forth is seamless and works well. What also works well is the tension. We can see the train wreck about to happen, but Evie cannot. Her innocence and her vulnerability are palpable; you want to reach into the story and shake her. Or chain her to the bedpost until she’s legal.

    The language is to die for—lots of cool imagery and nice sophisticated sentences. And though I would say this is a cerebral read, it’s also accessible. There’s not a whole lot of action, but it’s not slow. It’s super profound and really good at getting inside a 14-year-old’s head. And let’s not forget the setting: this was my time (chamomile tea and long flowered skirts included), and the author has it down perfectly. As with so many others, my horror at the Manson murders also includes a morbid fascination, so I was glued to the page trying to understand how a control freak becomes charismatic and succeeds in putting people into trances.

    One thing I wasn’t crazy about is the fact that all men are pretty much portrayed as obscene; I’m thinking this might bug guy readers.

    This book still has me thinking about What Ifs, even though I read it weeks ago. I’m certain that the What Ifs are still haunting Evie too (it’s a pretty good book if I’m acting like Evie is a real person!). She has been to the other side, and like others who have been there, she forever after will be just going through the motions, a heavy cloud following above her. Yep, this is one dark book—it’s at times pretty creepy and disturbing. Fear, desire, vulnerability, idol worship, loneliness, danger, mind-fucking—all are part of the darkness.

    This book reminded me a bit of two other favorites,

    (strong tone and imagery) and

    (girl obsession, first-person narration, cerebral). I just loved this book’s language, imagery, psychological insight, soul. I’m super impressed by this debut—I will wait eagerly for Cline’s next book.

    Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

    P.S. I’m all messed up about this being called historical fiction! Historical fiction is supposed to be pre-1950s, right? Historical fiction is not supposed to EVER be happening during my lifetime! I mean, come on, lol! What are these young whippersnapper genre-namers thinking?

  • Chelsea Humphrey

    I’m going to admit that this book was way deeper and more intellectual than I initially expected it to be. For some reason I was thinking this would be a thriller or mystery of sorts, and I guess it was in some aspects, but it was so much more than that and I’m really glad I was wrong about this one. I had a difficult time believing this was a debut novel as it was so well written; I can see why Random House has pegged this as one of their top books of Summer 2016. I’ll address it right off the

    I’m going to admit that this book was way deeper and more intellectual than I initially expected it to be. For some reason I was thinking this would be a thriller or mystery of sorts, and I guess it was in some aspects, but it was so much more than that and I’m really glad I was wrong about this one. I had a difficult time believing this was a debut novel as it was so well written; I can see why Random House has pegged this as one of their top books of Summer 2016. I’ll address it right off the bat; I’ve read multiple reviews stating they DNF because of there the top prose with which this was written. I get it; it put me off a bit in the beginning as well, but I’m glad I stuck with it as that tapered off mostly once I got about 15-20% into the book.

    This is one of those books that the summary basically tells you the whole synopsis in a nutshell; there really aren’t any surprises here, just the building knot in your stomach as you slowly approach the grotesque ending. I read a lot of books, namely psychological suspense/thriller, so I come across a good bit of violence and graphic content. The interesting thing about this book is how overall it isn’t extremely graphic in the sense of descriptions of violence; a good bit of this is left to your imagination and THAT is what was so disturbing to me.

    There were a a few sections that read a bit slow and that is why I didn’t give this the full 5 STARS; the pacing is very steady and not to be rushed. I would not recommend this as a quick, light read (it is about a violent murder involving members of a dangerous cult- think Charles Manson meets

    ) but it was a very interesting interpretation of the 1960’s and what all was going on in this time period. I think I would have liked a little more of Russell’s character but I understand why she left him as mysterious and vague, even following the conclusion.

    I’m glad I picked this one up; I haven’t read anything in the realm of historical fiction in a hot second and it was satisfying to travel back to a time that my parents were a part of before I was even a blip on their radar. While a heavy read in all aspects, a worthwhile read.

  • Katie

    As I’m sure everyone knows The Girls is about (despite disclaimers) the Manson murders. Personally I think this would have been a better novel (though probably a less commercially successful one) had she invented her own cult because Cline always seemed to me, understandably, out of her depth when dealing with the inner springs of the Manson cult. It was an odd choice to base this novel so closely on the Manson cult and yet at the same time coyly change names and a few insignificant details. Muc

    As I’m sure everyone knows The Girls is about (despite disclaimers) the Manson murders. Personally I think this would have been a better novel (though probably a less commercially successful one) had she invented her own cult because Cline always seemed to me, understandably, out of her depth when dealing with the inner springs of the Manson cult. It was an odd choice to base this novel so closely on the Manson cult and yet at the same time coyly change names and a few insignificant details. Much of the novel’s failings though are contained in that contradiction, that failure of nerve. It’s often going to feel a bit forced and awkward when an imaginary character is drafted into an historical event and for me that awkwardness eventually marred what was promising to be a truly splendid book.

    Cline sets up the novel brilliantly. Most of the best writing in this book is about adolescent female insecurity. She’s fabulous at identifying those needy vacuums in which self-destructive behaviour can take root. Evie, the heroine, has an absent father and a mother who has reverted to adolescent insecurities herself in her search for love. Evie has no role models in her life. Young boys provide no solution – “We believed that boys were acting with a logic that we could someday understand. To believe that their actions had any meaning beyond thoughtless impulse. We were like conspiracy theorists, seeing portent and intention in every detail, wishing desperately that we mattered enough to be the object of planning and speculation. But they were just boys. Silly and young and straightforward; they weren't hiding anything.”

    Then she meets Suzanne, a glamorous older female who seems self-possessed and capable of imparting the trick to Evie. “It was an age when I’d immediately scan and rank other girls, keeping up a constant tally of how I fell short.” The evolution of her relationship with Suzanne, the gaping hole in her life Suzanne fills, is done brilliantly. Suzanne will eventually take Evie to the ranch.

    It’s odd to say that this is when the novel became less compelling for me because obviously this is when the tension should have been cranked up several notches. But Cline’s Evie is never taken in by the commune. She has the detachment of the author. From the start she sees Russell, the Manson figure, as a rather unremarkable middle aged man. Cline barely allows him any charisma. It’s like Cline fears going anywhere near him and so doesn’t. He will remain unexplored throughout the novel. Strangely she even largely ignores Suzanne’s adulation of him and so even that is not any kind of felt tension in the novel. Most of the key Manson material is told not shown. And as a result neither Cline nor her narrator Evie ever enters into the spirit of the cult. She remains a critical bystander, like the reader. Evie’s main reason for being there is her huge girl crush on Suzanne. Here Cline is in her element. When she’s writing about stuff she knows about she’s brilliant. “No one had ever looked at me before Suzanne, not really, so she became my definition. Her gaze softening my centre so easily that even photographs of her seemed aimed at me, ignited with private meaning.”

    The writing begins to suffer when Cline is dependent on research. Cline deals with her obvious difficulty of writing about life at the ranch by constantly removing Evie who, rather unaccountably, keeps returning home for lengthy periods. In this way Cline doesn’t have to write about the period in which everything went dark. Rather vapid transitional passages of menacing prose are called upon to do the job – “The presence of death seemed to colour everything, like an odourless mist that filled the car and pressed against the windows, a mist we inhaled and exhaled and that shaped every word we spoke.” When Cline is out of her depth her prose, superbly eloquent when she knows what she’s talking about, becomes clichéd and generic. Also even Evie’s relationship with Suzanne begins to elude Cline and so her transition from free spirited wild child to psycho killer is left shadowy at best. It’s a massive jump to suggest there’s some kind of inevitable connection between a young female’s conditioned desperation for attention and love and becoming a cold blooded child killer, rather like someone using Hitler to dramatise the danger of eating disorders. It has become clear by now that the Manson murders are the selling point of this book, rather than the heart and soul of it.

    Some of the reviews praise this novel for its power to disturb but this is material that will disturb no matter how well or badly it’s narrated so I’m not sure it’s power to disturb is really much of an achievement. Personally I look forward to her next book when there isn’t perhaps so much commercial pressure on her because Emma Cline is a brilliant young writer and there’s lots of fabulous writing in this book; unfortunately it didn’t quite work for me as a novel.

    I realise this sounds a bit negative. Truth is, I thought this was absolutely brilliant to begin with (I'd give five stars to the first fifty pages) but then felt a bit let down by Cline’s decision to opt for sensationalism rather than trust in her immense talent as a writer. Maybe this is what a young writer has to do nowadays to get published.

  • Maxwell

    is definitely the "it" book of the summer. Everyone's talking about it. Rumor has it the debut author got a $2 million advance. It's edgy and risqué and unapologetic.

    Maybe the hype killed it for other people. And maybe their dislike of it saved me from going in with high expectations. Because I ended up really enjoying this one.

    The writing is superb. There's no doubt that Emma Cline can set a scene really well. And the narration has a self-reflective quality to it that I really enjoy

    is definitely the "it" book of the summer. Everyone's talking about it. Rumor has it the debut author got a $2 million advance. It's edgy and risqué and unapologetic.

    Maybe the hype killed it for other people. And maybe their dislike of it saved me from going in with high expectations. Because I ended up really enjoying this one.

    The writing is superb. There's no doubt that Emma Cline can set a scene really well. And the narration has a self-reflective quality to it that I really enjoy in first person stories.

    Perhaps all that beautiful prose hangs on a pretty thin plot, ripped right out of the headlines of the 1960's. But it's compulsively readable, engaging and ultimately pretty satisfying.

    And fair warning, it has some pretty adult stuff, so I wouldn't recommend this for younger readers or people who are averse to that kind of content.

  • Deanna

    3.5 Stars!!

    I really enjoyed this book by Emma Cline. I wasn't sure when I picked it up what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised.

    This is my second try at reviewing this after accidentally deleting everything I had typed. I almost always type in a document. Then I can save if I have to go do something else or accidentally hit the backspace button (which I'm constantly doing). Oh well, it happens. Now let's try this again....

    It's the start of summer in Northern California and Evie Boyd, an a

    3.5 Stars!!

    I really enjoyed this book by Emma Cline. I wasn't sure when I picked it up what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised.

    This is my second try at reviewing this after accidentally deleting everything I had typed. I almost always type in a document. Then I can save if I have to go do something else or accidentally hit the backspace button (which I'm constantly doing). Oh well, it happens. Now let's try this again....

    It's the start of summer in Northern California and Evie Boyd, an average teenager is a bit lonely and bored. Her parents are splitting up, she's fighting with one of her only friends and feels like no one understands her. However, that all changes after she meets a wild and fun group of girls in the park who seem to be all about having fun and being free. She can sense an undercurrent of danger and it only makes her want to belong to this group even more.

    It's not long before Evie starts to pull away from her mother, spending more time with the group especially Suzanne. Suzanne is an older girl that Evie is completely enamored with.

    “No one had ever looked at me before Suzanne, not really, so she became my definition. Her gaze softening my centre so easily that even photographs of her seemed aimed at me, ignited with private meaning.”

    But Evie is quickly becoming obsessed. Especially once she's been to the ranch and meets the larger than life Russell. Evie desperately wants to stay on the ranch. She feels like no one else understands her like these people do, especially Suzanne. But Evie doesn't realize how quickly things can change and soon comes the time where everything changes...in what seems like the blink of an eye.

    I really didn't know how I was going to feel about this book. I really felt like it snuck up on me. There wasn't non-stop action, but there didn't need to be. The writing was great and I really liked how the story was laid out. We hear about Evie's life both back then and now. We see how it all plays out and it's fascinating. This is a well-written, intoxicating book that I won't soon forget.

    Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and Emma Cline for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.

  • Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Find all of my reviews at:

    Tons of my friends received an ARC of

    and my feed has been filled for months with updates/reviews detailing all of the awesome they were all experiencing . . .

    Thanks for the warm welcome, John McClane, but I have a feeling you (along with everyone else) will soon be changing your tune.

    Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, whe

    Find all of my reviews at:

    Tons of my friends received an ARC of

    and my feed has been filled for months with updates/reviews detailing all of the awesome they were all experiencing . . .

    Thanks for the warm welcome, John McClane, but I have a feeling you (along with everyone else) will soon be changing your tune.

    Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, where should I begin?????? Maybe with . . .

    Wait, that’s a lie. I

    know what I expected . . .

    If I’m presented with a synopsis that tells me I’m going to be reading a fictional take on the ladies behind the Manson Murders, I expect something twisted that would pull a real mindfuckeroo. I wanted to meet girls like these . . . .

    What I got instead? A poor-little-rich-girl lead along with a supporting cast of characters who couldn't even be considered cardboard cutouts. They were more like shadows with zero dimension. And the story itself?

    happened until the 90% mark which left a

    angry Mitchell who looked a little something like this . . .

    (My cell phone camera broke so I had to improvise. Donations for a replacement are gladly accepted.)

    This just did not work for me at all. I hated the writing style, I like stories that are fresh and if you’re going to fictionalize one of the most famous events in U.S. history at least mix things up a teeny little bit (and I mean more than famous dude who was supposed to be the target of the murder being a musician rather than

    Roman Polanski or the female victim actually having a child instead of being pregnant), and most importantly THE MAIN CHARACTER SHOULD ACTUALLY BE A PART OF THE EFFING EVENT and not just tell us about

    Save me your trolling because my “friends” already beat you to it by saying they were going to have this sent to my house for not drinking the Cline Kool-Aid . . .

    JERKS!

    is the only one of my friends who read this right like me. She is now my favorite, so there.

  • Jessica

    Two stars might be a little harsh? Should I give it three? I don't know, I'm on the fence, maybe I'm just feeling burned by all the hype surrounding this book. Its $2 million dollar price tag built the hype, and I really did look forward to reading it. I was so excited to get approved on Netgalley. It just did nothing for me, for two reasons:

    1. It's really overwritten. There are a few turns of phrase, but Cline really overdoes it. She uses the verb

    four separate times to describe someone t

    Two stars might be a little harsh? Should I give it three? I don't know, I'm on the fence, maybe I'm just feeling burned by all the hype surrounding this book. Its $2 million dollar price tag built the hype, and I really did look forward to reading it. I was so excited to get approved on Netgalley. It just did nothing for me, for two reasons:

    1. It's really overwritten. There are a few turns of phrase, but Cline really overdoes it. She uses the verb

    four separate times to describe someone taking something, she describes a meal as

    , the narrator could hear someone's silence. It's too much, and it started to feel like it was more about style than substance -- a style that I found grating.

    2. I felt like the narrative was ultimately lacking in depth, which is surprising to me given that many reviews seemed to praise its nuance, its perceptiveness. I only skimmed most of the reviews, because I really did want to form my own opinion, but those were the adjectives that stick out in my head. And to those review-headline writers, I say:

    .

    Emma Cline does a couple of things well: she sets a very evocative scene (1969 Haight) and she does a good job laying out why our narrator, Evie, would be drawn to the Manson-eque cult. She has a falling out with her only friend, and feels alienated from her peers. She feels unloved by the boys she develops crushes on. Her practically absent father has left for a twenty-something woman and her mother is more interested in dating than mothering. Evie is lonely, insecure, and desperate for attention. It makes sense that she would get drawn in by Suzanne, a slightly older teen who dangles approval in front of Evie like a carrot. In that regard, yes, the book is perceptive.

    But it stops short in a lot of other ways. There's very little examination of the cult leader, the other members, life in the cult itself, and the crime they ultimately commit that summer. I know that Cline really wanted to focus on Evie, but she's not really an cult insider, absent when the crime is ordered and carried out and so it kind of felt like it came out of nowhere to me. Except for the fact that I pictured the cult leader as Charles Manson, I didn't feel like I understood why he'd order this crime and I didn't understand why the girls would obey. It felt a little more like, "Well of course that's going to happen, this

    a cult. That's what cults do." As though the reader's existing knowledge of the inspiration was enough development.

    I was similarly frustrated by the lack of examination regarding the "after" for Evie. Only the briefest of glimpses are given into what she did after the cult, and I finished the book feeling like this big thing had happened but I had no idea how it really altered the course of her life. There's a thread of the narrative that takes place in the relative present-day, in which Evie is crashing in a friend's home and is surprised by the friend's son and the son's girlfriend. Very little comes of this exchange, except maybe to highlight how paranoid Evie remains. But you could also easily construct the argument that she would have been that way even if she'd never met Suzanne. I desperately wanted something to happen here, and was very disappointed when it went nowhere.

    Honestly? To me, this felt like half of a pretty good novel that could have used a slightly more aggressive editor. The writing needed to be brought back down to Earth, but Cline

    needed someone to tell her to just keep the story going. The NetGalley I received was just 220 pages, though I think the print edition clocks in around 350 (not really sure how that works). If ever there were a novel that could have used an extra 100 pages, it was this one.

  • Justin

    I'm turning a corner here, Goodreaders. The old me would rate this book two stars and spend some time telling you how awful the book is and all the reasons I couldn't stand it, etc.

    But, that's the old me.

    I'm turning a corner. Turning over a new leaf. Doing a 180. Whatever.

    At least for this review.

    People I know, love, and respect really, really like this book. I completely get it, too. I absolutely understand how you could read this book and think it's amazing and get all caught up in the sto

    I'm turning a corner here, Goodreaders. The old me would rate this book two stars and spend some time telling you how awful the book is and all the reasons I couldn't stand it, etc.

    But, that's the old me.

    I'm turning a corner. Turning over a new leaf. Doing a 180. Whatever.

    At least for this review.

    People I know, love, and respect really, really like this book. I completely get it, too. I absolutely understand how you could read this book and think it's amazing and get all caught up in the story and the characters and be transported back to that crazy time in our nation's history.

    I just didn't connect with this book at any point, ever. I wanted to. I felt like I should have. I just didn't. I read it, never really cared, got to the end, shrugged, got off the couch, and made myself a sandwich.

    The sandwich thing happens after I finish every book, not just bad ones, and especially not just this one. Sometimes it's cereal or maybe an apple, but who really cares about my post-reading eating habits that may or may not be really a thing anyway?

    Feel free to message me for more info.

    I read Helter Skelter in high school and that book was... way too long for a high school kid to read. I mean, it was a great read, fascinating, unbelievable, hard to even rationalize that it was a real event. Crazy.

    This stupid book... Wait, I'm turning a corner...

    This book took real events, changed the characters names, and did nothing creative outside of that. It was fine, I guess. It's not worth whatever advance she got from Random House, and it's not worth the attention it's getting. It's not written very well, often comes across as too pretentious and trying too hard to be awesome, and ultimately forgettable.

    Sorry... I'm trying to change....

    Hang on...

    But, people like it and that's great. Sometimes books don't grab me the same way, and The Girls and I had a bad first date and still tried to make it work. It was doomed from the start, but I read it, it was short, and I can now move on to other books.

    Have a good night everyone.

  • Emily May

    I very rarely put aside books after reading just a prologue and one chapter, but I cannot make myself suffer through any more of this. My stomach was coiling with dread each time I even thought about pushing through another 300+ pages of this overwritten prose.

    I very rarely put aside books after reading just a prologue and one chapter, but I cannot make myself suffer through any more of this. My stomach was coiling with dread each time I even thought about pushing through another 300+ pages of this overwritten prose.

    I'm sure a certain type of reader will love this, but that reader is not me. Out of curiosity, though, what's with the Manson-related stories? I just finished

    , and now we have this book, which is based on the Manson cult and tells how Evie Boyd gets drawn into it. Did I miss something?

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