Horror · Ida's English Reading Corner

Review | Wilder Girls

“It’s like that, with all of us here. Sick, strange, and we don’t know why. Things bursting out of us, bits missing and pieces sloughing off, and then we harden and smooth over.”

Rory Power | Wilder Girls

Salty air from the cliffs of Raxter Island used to ruffle the hair of wandering students from the Raxter School for Girls, but now there are strange things lurking in the deep woods surrounding the school, and no girl walks there anymore. What they call the Tox has gripped their island. One after another, the girls fell ill with a strange fever. The Tox crept into the girls, turning them into creatures with stranger deformities, bleeding almost to death, changing with each feverish outburst. Most of them die. Just like the teachers, who were the first to suffer a painful death. Now the girls are on their own, fighting to stay alive. Amidst them is Hetty, who lost her right eye due to the Tox, and her two best friends, Byatt and Reese. But then Byatt goes missing, and the chaos begins…

There are two reasons why I added this book to the never ending collection on my bookshelf: First of all, it was cover-love at first sight. Second of all, after finding out it’s supposed to be an adaptation of one of my favourite classics of all time, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, it was settled: I not only wanted it, I NEEDED it. Published in 1954, the story of that Classic focuses on a band of boys, who are stranded on an island after their plane crashed. With all adults dead, they come up with their own rules, following down a spiral of brutality and untamed wild. I fell in love with Lord of the Flies because of its unapologetic dive into the darkest parts of what it means to be human – and what turns human beings into relentless, unmercifull beasts. But Wilder Girls I loved because of other reasons.

“I think I’d been looking for it all my life
a storm in my body to match the one in my head.”

– Rory Power, ‘Wilder Girls’

I’ll be honest: At first, I had to feel my way into this novel. Clipped sentences, snippets of moments, thoughts and emotions. But after a while, it started to make sense. It’s an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, of death and loss and being tough enough to handle all of it at quite a young age. That’s mirrored in Rory Powers writing style – and it’s more than fitting. I felt with those girls, stranded on an island with barely any guidance. Where education at their school right now means shooting practice, braving the wild to collect rare food shipments from the mainland once a week and grieving for those buried behind the school. Where odd things happen to their own bodies. When the awkward pains of coming of age are hightened by everything around them. Where the girls brave the wild inside their heads, hearts and souls.

Also! I am in love with the fact that this book not only manages to depict a believable love story between two girls, but to put its main focus on the amazing friendship between three girls. It’s not platonic, it’s not ‘let me be the helpful sidekick to your story, dear main protagonist’-kind of friendship. No. These are young females whose relationship is as complicated as they are. Whose love and trust creates the most wonderful kind of sisterhood. Who fight savagely with each other, but most of all for each other. They have each other’s back, no matter what. That’s exactly what I want to read more about!

I have to admit, reading about a strange disease and quarantined girls on an island during a literal pandemic is a whole other level of horror. But it’s horror done well. And it’s gory and heartbreaking and quite unsettling. A wonderful book for a spooky late night reading, with elements of sci-fi and horror and a story that will stick with you long after you finished it!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Author:     Rory Power
Title:          Wilder Girls
Press:         Delacorte Press
Year of publication:  2019
Pages:         357

Other spooky book recommendations for your autumnal reading list from last year’s Hallowe’en Reads:

Irena Brignull – Die Prophezeiung der Hawkweed (german review)
Alan Bradley – Flavia de Luce: Vorhang auf für eine Leiche (german review)
Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
Stephen King – IT

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