My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Genre: YA Horror
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Published: July 9th, 2019
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.
“We don’t get to choose what hurts us”
If you are an active member of the online YA community than you surely have heard of this book. The hype and anticipation was insane around Wilder Girls and I was there for it. It made my top ten most anticipated books of 2019 and then the reviews started coming out and boy were they mixed. That ending got a lot of people upset… So, where did I fall on all of this? Let’s get into a little more.
Wilder Girls focuses on a boarding school that has been quarantined, for about a year, due to some type of outbreak that they refer to as “The Tox.” They have no idea how it started, no real help seems to be coming (other than some bare minimum supplies and food) and there seems to be no cure in sight. Yes, things are pretty damn dire. This is told through the POV of our two mains – Hetty and Byatt who are best friends and going through this together. We also have another fairly main character – Reese, who is close with the girls but we don’t get her direct POV.
Artwork by LayaRose
This is a bit of a tough review to write because I don’t want to give too much away, or really anything. I think what a lot of people will have trouble with is none of these girls are likable. You might even hate them, but I loved that about the story. All these young girls and a couple of teachers are in a VERY extreme situation. Not only are they getting sick, constantly starving and scared out of their minds at all times – “The Tox” makes them deform. Yes, deform. Girls growing extra spines, eyelids, claws for hands – all kinds of messed up shit and on top of it – it’s all insanely painful. They’ve been going through this for a year now and they have NO outside contact. Now tell me how pleasant you think you would be? They have to fight each other for food every day – yep you get beat up off a piece of rotting cheese. I am thinking I would likely be a nasty bitch as well. Just saying. Also, these girls are all teens – they are all going through hormonal changes and that is a pretty important part of this story.
Wilder Girls on the surface looks like just some fast-paced zombie-type novel with a lot of gory body horror. That is the surface, there are a lot of feminist themes going underneath. This whole book is one big metaphor for sexism and what it’s like to be a woman and coming of age as a young girl. This is where I really can’t get into things without major spoilers, but there are many moments where they could be talking about “The Tox” just like it’s someone getting their period and yay – here’s a present for you. This illness even has a very different set of rules for how it attacks a woman’s system compared to how it attack’s a man. It kind of reminded me of an indie horror movie called “Ginger Snaps.” Which was a werewolf film that did something kind of similar in terms of young girls coming of age but done in a horror setting. Really cool stuff.
“She’s never liked us much, not since she complained that there were no boys on the island, and Reese gave her the blankest look I’ve ever seen and said, “Plenty of girls, though.”
Also, I have to mention, this book is queer AF! I mean there are only girls on the island and some of them have definitely paired up. I loved all the representation – I can’t really say that I shipped the main couple in this because it’s just so complicated. I did love them during their quiet, sweet moments but sadly these girls were in such bad shape that most moments are stolen from them.
Ok, ok I know everyone wants me to talk about the ending. This is where all the ratings plummeted and all I have to say is why? Without giving anything away, I don’t understand why there was such intense hate for this ending. Yes, it’s open-ended, but I didn’t even think it was THAT open-ended. It felt pretty clear to me. I don’t always think things need to be wrapped up with a bow at the end, sometimes we don’t get all the answers and in this case, I thought it was the perfect ending for this type of book. I would recommend giving this a try if it sounds like something you’d like – I’d also recommend going in with an open mind and making your own mind up how you feel about this one. I loved it and I’ll be reading Rory in the future.