Evie Boyd, a young teenager living in California during the 60’s, finds herself enthralled with a group of older girls she spots in the park one day. Their free-spirited attitude awakens something in Evie and she soon finds herself joining the soon-to-be-infamous cult. Falling deeper and deeper into the mindset of her new circle of companions, Evie doesn’t realize how close she’s getting to the horror and violence that’s in store.
The premise for this debut novel had me very intrigued. I’m not overly familiar with the Manson family, but with this fictional story carrying a similar theme, I was definitely interested to read it. I felt Cline did a great job at setting the scenes, the gritty world that Evie finds herself gravitating towards, compared to the “regular” day to day life at home. Most of the characters were flawed in their own ways, which made them more real and dimensional.
The interactions among the cult were certainly provocative at times, and I felt a bit uncomfortable at just how provocative it was given the age of the protagonist. That may very well be what it could be like in those situations, I have no idea, but there were moments that I felt it was trying too hard to be shocking and sexual.
While I thought the narrative was compelling, the pacing felt a bit uneven to me. There was a build-up to the rising tension of what the readers know is sure-to-be coming, and when it hits that point it seems to lack a bit more punch than what I was expecting. Most of the story takes place in the 60’s through the eyes of a teenage Evie, but there were moments as well of an older Evie reflecting back on her younger self. Those moments seemed to jar me out of the world that Cline was trying to establish. Perhaps the juxtaposition of the two very different lives was intentional, but the “present day” felt too slow and mundane, with asinine conversations between her and the other characters, that it threw off the pacing for me – especially nearing the conclusion.
All that being said, I did still find the story itself an interesting read. The Girls is a fictional story, but it seems to offer up a narrative of what it might have been like for someone who was caught up in such an infamous cult. It’s now also made me very curious to read more about cults and the mindset of the people in them.