Book Review – Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Genre: Horror; Science Fiction

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

After a rough few months where I didn’t have the time or energy to read – this was my first “return to reading” experience. From the first page I was hooked and flew through the novel. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I prefer my Science Fiction “light” – quick to grasp and understand without having to flip back to refresh on too many things. Wilder Girls hit that mark. 

Note: For me, Science Fiction “light” means changing only a few elements of reality – it’s based in the real world but a key item is altered. Often, I find Science Fiction that builds a whole new reality to be a little difficult to keep up with and I have to flip back-and-forth to remind myself what certain things are. These novels can be wonderful, they just require a bit more effort to read.

While the genre is horror, at its heart, Wilder Girls by Rory Power is a badass story about love and friendship. Hetty, Byatt and Reese have been stuck at the Raxter School for Girls for 18 months as a deadly disease called “the Tox” changes everything around them and slowly claims the lives of the other students. 

Rory Powers paints a beautiful world on an island off the coast of the Northeast United States full of unknown monsters and even more terrifying disease. With the Tox manifesting in a variety of ways, each girl is her own unique horror story and from chapter one I was eating it up. 

My favorite element of the novel is the bond of kinship between the characters. They were willing to fight with each other but even more willing to fight for each other. A lot of post-apocalyptic stories show a lawless land where it’s every man (or woman) for themself. At the Raxter School there was plenty of anger and turmoil, but at the end of the day they were all in this together. 

It was all so perfect .. until it wasn’t. 

Like I mentioned, I devoured this novel. I loved it from the moment I started. The scenery – gorgeous, the plot – unforgettable, the ending – crap. 

Tangent time!

While studying for my undergraduate degree, I read a novel called A State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. The story was immaculate and I loved every moment of it – until the end. That’s when I realized there is a key element in novels I value more than I ever realized – pacing. 

An author sets a cadence, a timing, a method or rhythm in which the story unfolds. As you read, you and the author get in step and are counting the music together, moving as one. It’s almost like a dance. 

I wish I could tell you that A State of Wonder will remain ingrained in my memory because of Ann Patchett’s flawless execution, but unfortunately it’s the opposite. She paced the story, she made me fall in love with the characters – and at the end it’s almost like she panic-wrote the last one third of the book and attempted to slap a beautiful flowery bow on every open plot line. 

It. Was. Terrible.

I felt so let down. 

In a sense, that’s what Rory Powers did to me with Wilder Girls. We were in step, we were dancing together. Then, it just ended. Like she wrote until her editor was like “AND .. TIME!” so she put her pen down and called it a novel. 

It’s unfinished. It needs more. And at this point I can only hope for a sequel, so I can have some sense of closure. 

So, should you read this book? Yes. Absolutely. 

Will you likely want to hunt Rory Powers down and demand answers? Also yes. 

Buy Wilder Girls by Rory Powers here at Thank You Books (Birmingham, AL) or at your local bookstore!

Have you read Wilder Girls? Let’s talk about it here in the comments or on Instagram.

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