Boarding school girls under quarantine from a virus that changes your body into something else.
Genre: YA, Science Fiction, LGBQTIA+, horror
No. of pages: 357
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.
I was glad to hear there is a possibility of a sequel forthcoming, because we don’t get a lot of answers surrounding the myth and history of the world of Raxter, just a small personal history of one of our protagonists – Hetty. Hetty comes across as the ‘born yesterday’ trope, so she is a great protagonist as an introduction to elements the girls at the Raxter boarding school face with some sort of biological outbreak putting the school into isolation. It’s only in the last third of the novel that we start to see her gather her wits and courage to follow her instincts rather that going with the flow. Her questioning the status quo is what really sees the plot revealing itself.
The second POV is from Hetty’s best friend Byatt. Byatt is more gutsy, more head strong, and I feel the narrative only followed her to reveal some plot points because once that job was done, there really wasn’t much use for her perspective. Though she was a great motivator for Hetty.
Reese is Hetty’s love interest and the third member that rounds out this trio of a friendship group. Hetty’s father was the groundskeeper of the Raxter boarding school and a permanent resident of the island. So Reese has intimate knowledge of the islands ins and outs (and secrets.) Reese is the lens that Hetty starts to come to terms with her feelings and burgeoning sexuality. The voice of reason.
The biological outbreak on the island is called the Tox and seems to morph the biology of whatever it infects with elements of other biological organisms – hence the body horror. Parts of the residents of the Raxter School for Girls are taking on characteristics of other things – that is if the Tox doesn’t kill them outright. The Army and CDC are working for a cure offsite and dropping in supplies to help the school survive. The remaining teachers and girls have to gate themselves in the grounds of the school because infected wildlife on the island have now become aggressive and dangerous. Every day is a fight for survival waiting for a cure… or for the Tox to take them down in an agonising death.
I’m conflicted about the girls reaction to death: on the one hand they are dealing with so much they are in shock or suffering a form of PTSD, of the fact of what they have gone through has desensitised them to death, loss, and grief. It’s a hard one to judge – I think a sequel will help me form a better opinion on this and how the author sees the character handling such heavy events.
Rory Power’s writing style is alluring, succinct, and resonant, echoing the horrific and beautiful tone of ‘Wilder Girls.’ I wouldn’t say this is a horror per se, but it has elements of body horror that make your skin crawl.
I really enjoyed my time reading ‘Wilder Girls,’ though the story line is fairly simple and it took a long time for the plot to move forward. There is a lot of space setting up tone, character relationships, character development, and ambience… which I felt slowed down the pace more than necessary. ‘Wilder Girls’ has the feel of a Gothic horror, without being a gothic horror – just in the cadence it is written.
There are a number of seeds planted in the plot that weren’t resolved, that I’m hoping we’ll get to in the sequel(s) – I feel like the story only just got going when ‘Wilder Girls’ ended. I feel I would have rated this higher if I got more of that satisfaction at the end. There were just too many unanswered questions.
I won’t say the story was all that predictable, I mean I had my hunches and they sort of came about, but there was plenty of surprise and mystery to impress me and draw me further into the narrative.
I strong recommendation from me – the writing style alone is enough for me to be shoving this into my friends hands.
Overall feeling: An atmospheric read with elements of body horror
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