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.

Book Review – The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

Genre: Young Adult; Sci-Fi; Fantasy

Rating: 4.5 / 5

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

I consume a lot of fantasy and sci-fi literature, movies, television shows, and video games. While I love a good sappy sparkly vampire story, it’s rare that a world, story, or universe created by an author feels real and like home. The older I’ve gotten the less I’ve been able to completely disappear into the depths of Mordor or the halls of Hogwarts. They are wonderful stories, but I don’t find myself pulled to them in dreams like I did when I was a child. 

This novel did just that. Lisa Maxwell builds a beautiful new take on magic in this mixed Fantasy/Sci-Fi world. If you are a lover of young adult or fantasy literature, I highly recommend this book. When I wasn’t sneaking a few pages into my day whenever I could (yay motherhood!) I was walking the streets of New York City in my dreams. I was alongside Esta and the other Mageus, shying away from the Brink and plotting to take down the Order. 

Ultimately, this is a story about a young girl, Esta, eager to prove herself while trying to figure out who she is and what she really wants. (Like young girls do) she struggles between her personal desires and how she was raised. It was refreshing to have a strong female character whose struggle wasn’t centered around being a woman. So often stories are told because there is a woman and she is strong and she’s doing something only a strong woman could do, but I find it frustrating that it’s “special” when a woman conquers a challenging obstacle. 

I never felt like this story was only important because a woman was at the center. This is such an intangible element to attempt to describe, but this made me hopeful for the future of literature and storytelling. I am so tired of feeling like it’s a novelty to have a powerful female lead. Women are just extraordinary, everyday. It’s not a novelty, it’s just reality. 

Esta’s choices lead us on a journey with many twists and turns, but they happen organically. Lisa Maxwell was never forcing an Ah-Ha moment on us just for the shock factor. The story flows and feels genuine.

Like most novels that shift between narrators, it took me a few chapters to find the flow. But the narrators have unique voices and, when you meet each character, the transition between becomes seamless. I found myself eager to hear from the different points of view in the scene. The impact helps to round out the picture and build tension, which remains from the first page through the last.

The push-and-pull of tension (sexual and otherwise) throughout the novel created a sexiness without any real “sexy” scenes. Don’t get me wrong, I am a sucker for an erotic novel (hello Christian Grey), but, thankfully, Lisa Maxwell didn’t try to force it into the story. The tension is ever-present and not always romantic. It pushes the story along and makes you want to keep reading more.

The last note I have is related to the time travel this novel is centered around. Generally, time travel as a plot device makes me uneasy. There is always something that doesn’t sit right with me, a loophole not discussed or explored, or the move back into the past erasing the entire story you just read (looking at you School for Psychics Book 2). However, in The Last Magician, it works. There isn’t a lot of digging into the science and there are no multiple timelines. Do something – the future is impacted. The story keeps it simple, which I appreciate, but doesn’t ignore the impact of changing the past.

If you are looking for a novel (and potentially series – stay tuned) to pull you in from front to back, this is the one. The Last Magician is a beautiful story and a new take on magic. The sights, sounds, and people feel familiar but with a unique flavor. This book will remain on my “recommend-to-a-friend” list.

Buy The Last Magician here on Amazon (or at your local bookstore)!

Have you read The Last Magician? Let’s talk about it. Leave a comment or send me a message letting me know what you thought of the novel.