“We’re gonna make it. Tell me we’re gonna make it.”
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.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED JULY 9, 2019
CW: body horror, violence, gore, medical scenes, gun violence, animal death, suicide, loss of a loved one, self-harm, gas chamber killings
For starters, I want to say that this book is gory. Like, grossly gory, with huge heaps of body horror. Girls vomit up teeth and grow gills and lose their eyes, and there’s worse content than that. Take the content warnings seriously before you dive in, because this one isn’t toying around. It’s gross and graphic in a lot of ways, and even though I was able to power through it, there were a few scenes where I nearly DNFed for my own peace of squeamish mind.
That said, Wilder Girls has been a phenomenal read if you can get past the more gruesome aspects of it. For one, the prose is just enchanting, which you wouldn’t expect to find in a story about girls abandoned to a vicious, mutation-creating disease on an island that was once meant for just a boarding school, not a quarantine center. You get flashes of how Raxter Island used to be, and how sunny and pleasant life was before the Tox hit. You get these glimpses of irises popping up from the earth and crabs scuttling along the beach, and a chill Maine breeze fluttering down the coast. And on the other hand, you also get life as it is now, where the beasts in the woods are ravenous and deadly, and the girls in the school are sometimes just the same. It’s haunting, really, to have such a dangerous and deadly place described with such lyrical language.
It’s also queer, though it isn’t so much a romance. There are romantic elements for sure, but this is a survival horror story. If you’re looking for a soft happy ending, this is not the place to visit. If you’re looking for something more tangled and unpleasant and gritty, though, you’re going to get it here. Hetty, Byatt, and Reese make for a complicated trio, and the way their navigate their relationships with one another is harsh but generally honest. It’s fitting, really, on an island like this, where weakness will eat you alive in more ways than one.
Wilder Girls also gets compared to Lord of the Flies a lot, which I’m not sure is a fair comparison. Yeah, it’s a bunch of girls stranded on an island, but they’re not without adult supervision, and it’s not a mass free-for-all. There’s a way of things on Raxter, and it’s a way that’s kept the girls mostly alive for nearly a year and a half. Changed, but alive.
Really, I think the reason I gave such a fantastic, tense novel only four stars was first because of personal preference re: gore (it’s just too much for me personally), and because the ending was the only part I felt didn’t deliver. The resolution comes up short just when it needs to follow through, and I’m left with so many questions unanswered. It’s not so horrible an ending that I’m mad about it necessarily, but it was a little frustrating, and I wanted a little more out of it. It needed further resolution than it got.
But altogether, Wilder Girls is vicious and gruesome and enchanting all at once, and it comes out July 9th, if you’re thinking of pre-ordering or requesting it from your local library! Just be aware of what you’re getting into, given the graphic nature of the book, and if it’s not for you, it’s not for you. I definitely don’t emphasize this lightly. 💚