The Girls by Emma Cline

The best writers are able to evoke a shared sense of feeling in us. No, we may not have orbited a Manson family-like cult, but we have felt that rush of mutual (we hope) liking; that longing to find a place where we are needed- where no one else but us belongs. Emma Cline does that so well. Though I haven’t felt that longing for friends that threatens to choke you since I was young, I remember. Cline’s words instantly place you, ok, me, back in those years when one is so desperate to belong somewhere, anywhere.

Evie Boyd is sitting in the park when she sees her: the girl who will change everything: she is carefree and confident. Evie is at odds- her parents have split, she’s entering adulthood, she’s at a crossroads and has no one to show her the way. When she meets Suzanne, the girl from earlier, she’s enticed by her certainty of who she is and where she belongs. Evie has had a fight with her best friend and has no one else. Suzanne draw Evie into a family where they seem to accept each other for who they are. Evie wants to community, but more she is drawn to Suzanne.

Told from Evie’s reminiscences, The Girls tells the story of one girl who wants to find a place to be. She thinks she finds that with a family who live in a rundown ranch house, but where everyone seems to belong to each other. She wants that. Even from her older, wiser self, there’s a sense that she’s still looking for that place, that belonging. Cline effectively conjures the feelings of a teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood – that moment when she is no longer a child, but not an adult either. That moment when her peers’ opinions matter more than her parents’. That moment when she sees that her parents- once perfect and hers- have feet of clay.

This book is a sucker punch to the gut when you realize you yourself have felt that desperate need to belong, to be seen and valued and desired. More than anything, this novel evoked a sense of that suffocating loneliness. It also tapped back into that feeling from adolescence that you’re alone, invisible, insignificant, not worthy. That’s the thing I really remember about this book: the feeling that you’re not enough- not enough to keep your old friends, to make new ones, to make someone care. While one aspect of The Girls dwelt on the dissolution of Evie’s parents’ marriage, it didn’t really explore Evie’s feelings about that. Instead, she did what I imagine a lot of young girls her age, and what I did at that age, do: run away. Evie’s family is falling apart, so she finds another; one with a charismatic leader who has gathered a group of dissatisfied people, mostly girls to himself. Russell, the leader, tries to draw Evie into his sphere of influence, but she’s mainly there to get close to Suzanne, the one who has drawn her eye.

It has a bit of a modernist feel as far as language goes; a ‘stream of conscious’ feel to the flow.

Emma Cline was able to create a teenage female character who is so real and three dimensional that she could be the teenage girl you know or were. She delves into the thinking and feeling of teenagers so well, it felt at times to read like someone’s diary, very personal and raw.

The best writers are able to evoke a shared sense of feeling in us. No, we may not have orbited a Manson family-like cult, but we have felt that rush of mutual (we hope) liking; that longing to find a place where we are needed- where no one else but us belongs. Emma Cline does that so well. Though I haven’t felt that longing for friends that threatens to choke you since I was young, I remember. Cline’s words instantly place you, ok, me, back in those years when one is so desperate to belong somewhere, anywhere.

Evie Boyd is sitting in the park when she sees her: the girl who will change everything: she is carefree and confident. Evie is at odds- her parents have split, she’s entering adulthood, she’s at a crossroads and has no one to show her the way. When she meets Suzanne, the girl from earlier, she’s enticed by her certainty of who she is and where she belongs. Evie has had a fight with her best friend and has no one else. Suzanne draw Evie into a family where they seem to accept each other for who they are. Evie wants to community, but more she is drawn to Suzanne.

Told from Evie’s reminiscences, The Girls tells the story of one girl who wants to find a place to be. She thinks she finds that with a family who live in a rundown ranch house, but where everyone seems to belong to each other. She wants that. Even from her older, wiser self, there’s a sense that she’s still looking for that place, that belonging. Cline effectively conjures the feelings of a teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood – that moment when she is no longer a child, but not an adult either. That moment when her peers’ opinions matter more than her parents’. That moment when she sees that her parents- once perfect and hers- have feet of clay.

This book is a sucker punch to the gut when you realize you yourself have felt that desperate need to belong, to be seen and valued and desired. More than anything, this novel evoked a sense of that suffocating loneliness. It also tapped back into that feeling from adolescence that you’re alone, invisible, insignificant, not worthy. That’s the thing I really remember about this book: the feeling that you’re not enough- not enough to keep your old friends, to make new ones, to make someone care. While one aspect of The Girls dwelt on the dissolution of Evie’s parents’ marriage, it didn’t really explore Evie’s feelings about that. Instead, she did what I imagine a lot of young girls her age, and what I did at that age, do: run away. Evie’s family is falling apart, so she finds another; one with a charismatic leader who has gathered a group of dissatisfied people, mostly girls to himself. Russell, the leader, tries to draw Evie into his sphere of influence, but she’s mainly there to get close to Suzanne, the one who has drawn her eye.

It has a bit of a modernist feel as far as language goes; a ‘stream of conscious’ feel to the flow.

Emma Cline was able to create a teenage female character who is so real and three dimensional that she could be the teenage girl you know or were. She delves into the thinking and feeling of teenagers so well, it felt at times to read like someone’s diary, very personal and raw.

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