Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Random House Children’s – Delacorte Press, via NetGalley for an honest review.
Plot: 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.
“My other eye’s dead, gone dark in a flare-up. Lid fused shut, something growing underneath.
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.”
This book will make your skin shift,
your toes coil,
and your breath hurt.
With every page it slowly peels away layers of your heart while simultaneously sewing those pieces back together; until you’re left with nothing, but this mismatched, lumpy, irregular beating organ lost inside your chest that you aren’t even sure is yours anymore.
There is a rawness and truth hidden in these beautifully writhing words.
So make sure you’re listening.
“…and I miss the way the wind steals your breath like it never belonged to you in the first place.”
A year and a half ago, the Tox infiltrated their island. It crept its way through the trees and animals, tickled the locks on the gates and doors. It sighed through the ventilation like a whisper after lights out, and it took a hold of every girl with a beating heart and a smile. The Navy said they were looking for a cure. That there is still hope, they just needed more time. But the girls at Raxter don’t have time. The Tox is ripping them apart one by one, making them turn on one another, or worse, making them turn on themselves. But Hetty, Byatt and Resse have each other. And as long as they stick together, they can survive anything.
Unless the next flare-up shreds them from the inside and turns their bodies black.
“About three months into the Tox, they came back from the woods with their names torn out of their heads. The Tox took what they were, took everything except how to hold a knife. It made them stick each other in the main hall during dinner, made them watch themselves bleed dry.”
This book took my body through a mess of psychological and physical torment. My stomach is still writhing around and trying to jump out of my throat, and I’m honestly more than a little concerned that something might be crawling around inside me now. Wilder Girls…is wild. Rory Power has taken the typical “virus outbreak” story and dipped it in a drum barrel of mental terrorism to give you a tale of graceful misery and unorthodox beauty.
Because that is exactly what this toxic storm of starvation, terror, and savagery is.
“His skin peels off like strips of paper, gathering under my nails, soft and pulpy.”
These sweet, innocent and delicate young girls are trapped in an asylum that keeps them cut-off from the rest of existence. Their once normal lives have been drowned; washed away by an outbreak that leaves behind unpredictable flare-ups that leave the girls in a state of physical insanity. Bruising from the inside out, second spines and hearts, a silver scaled hand, skin lesions and bubbles. Each girl is a walking nightmare. A grotesque and brutal version of their former selves. But what makes these girls truly breathtaking and beautiful, is that they look at one another without judgement.
Each girl is wild, untamed and ferocious. They are monstrous creatures with brave hearts and convictions. They go to physical blows over scraps of food, but protect one another with a passion and savagery that is…enviable. These girls push through their bleak existence to find love and comfort in one another. It’s a story of strength and iron-will. Of yearning and love that doesn’t need to be explained. These girls aren’t pushed into categories and stigmas, they just ARE.
“Reese and Byatt, they’re mine and I’m theirs.”
The three main girls are Hetty, Byatt and Reese. The story mainly unfolds by the voice of Hetty, but flips over to Byatt’s viewpoint occasionally as it progresses. Hetty and Byatt are extremely close, to the point of near obsession for Hetty. She wants to be everything that Byatt needs, and credits Byatt for being the one to show her who she really is. But somehow, this obsession doesn’t feel poisonous or harmful. It feels loving, respectful and protective.
“Byatt was the one who put the bones in my body.”
The romance in this story is slight, but it is absolutely heartfelt and soft. It isn’t lustful or forced, and it doesn’t take away from the plot. To be honest, it’s one of the only truly good feeling moments in Wilder Girls. The sweetness of it is quick and will be gone before you know it, so enjoy that moment while it lasts. Because this book isn’t going to lull you into blissful dreams.
“My back arches, eyes slamming open. Thrashing against the straps pinning me, throwing my weight from side to side. Paretta, at the foot of my gurney, saying my name, but she’s the one who did this to me. I scream.”
This is a horror story, and it is indeed horrific. It is eerie, creepy and doused in a gloom so thick you can barely focus your eyes. It made me cringe. It made me disgusted. It made me keep the lights an hour after I finished the book. But most of all, it created a pit in my stomach that I still can’t seem to shake. And honestly, that is all I ever want from a book.
For it to leave my body in a state of confusion.
“…I start to know what the rope is for. But I don’t do anything. I sit so my legs are tucked under me. I watch the Tox go to work. On his knees. A rope into a noose. His eyes never close. His grip never changes. He is pulling right until the end.”