The Girls by Emma Cline- Why I don’t miss being a teenager….

This is a brooder for sure.

The Girls Emma Cline2

A quick read, yet a slow roller. Evie is a typically bored 14 year old on the brink of figuring out who she will be. The summer before she is sent to a private school, she spends hanging out with the one friend she has always had, Connie, and yet they do nothing. Connie is boring, one dimensional, catty- a typical 14 year old girl. The most excitement they have is figuring out if they can make Connie’s brother and friend fall in love with them, or maybe just make out a few times. Both of them have an desperate need for attention, to be noticed by anyone.

Evie’s boredom with her life and her friend is palpable. She wants to test herself- to test Connie’s brother, which is a failure. She tests her relationship with her mother and her new boyfriend. She tests her father. She sees Suzanne and this becomes her biggest test…and she manages to pass it…to a point.

Suzanne belongs to a cult of younger kids, mostly girls, who follow Russell, a musician that they treat as their idol. Evie seems to fall in love with Suzanne, and does anything Suzanne wants her to do. Since Suzanne has a thing for Russell, this means Evie does too- devastatingly- and she will do whatever Russell asks to appease Suzanne. Evie is easily manipulated by both Suzanne and Russell for fear of appearing weak or to become unnoticeable again. Her time with this cult makes her seem (become?) much wiser than her 14 years should allow. She learns a few lessons on how to use her femininity to get what she wants.

Written from Evie’s point of view, some chapters are written as her at 14 during her time with the cult, and some with her as an adult, coming to terms with how her choices at 14, her poor self esteem and strong desire for someone to SEE her, notice her, have affected her as an adult. The chapters with Evie as an adult are incredibly sad, seeking attention from an ex boyfriend’s son’s girlfriend and others, and yet being fearful of any interactions, particularly with strangers.

It is known for the book description that some sort of violence occurs when she is younger. Whether intentional or not, how Evie handles this after it has occurred is left very vague- I both appreciate this, and yet question if that was intentional. The world knows she was involved, but we never find out how that happens.

This book is FULL of similes, and after a while they did become a big over descriptive and unnecessary, but on the whole, this was a great book.

My Favorite Lines:
“Poor Sasha. Poor girls. The world fattens them on the promise of love. How badly they need it, and how little most of them will ever get.”

“They didn’t have very far to fall- I knew just being a girl in the world handicapped your ability to believe yourself. Feelings seemed completely unreliable, like faulty gibberish scraped from a Ouija board.”

A final note. I have read other reviews that denounce Emma’s portrayal of men in this book (mostly by men). That all are either weak, or sexual deviants and aggressors. Unfortunately, that is real life. No, not all men are horrible. But for this (fictional) story, it is why Evie struggles to be noticed…she has never had a true, good relationship with any boy or man. And there are MANY women in real life for whom this is true. Whether men want to acknowledge it or not, their interactions with women, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential, have impacts on how women interact with men in the future.

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2 thoughts on “The Girls by Emma Cline- Why I don’t miss being a teenager….

  1. I think the gender dynamic in the book is the highlight. I love the fact that Evie, and all of the girls we meet, are so angry about their general roles in society and that they recognize that anger. I love that Ms. Cline notes all of the times women are pigeonholed into subordinate roles, how we are overlooked and ignored unless as objects of desire. I think this is one of the strongest feminist novels out there right now, and I feel that people ignore that message in light of the fact that it is about a Manson-like cult. In fact, I read one review that was upset because the story did not go into greater details about the crime itself. It makes me wonder whether I am reading too much into the story if people honestly think the story is about Manson’s family.

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    1. Right? It really isn’t even that Manson-like to me, I guess. I wasn’t expecting gruesome details, and as soon as I started reading it, I knew I wasn’t going to get them. If people want those gory details, go ready the corpus of books available about Manson! šŸ™‚

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