I read four novels in full and half of another and about 30 pages of one more for Barnes & Noble’s new YA Book Club in 2019. This was my favorite of them all. It was advertised to me as Lord of the Flies with a female cast. In Power’s novel a strange disease has struck an isolated island that is home to an elite girls’ school. The island has been quarantined, and the girls have already survived eighteen months in isolation when the story begins. The girls form new social strata. They form strong bonds with fewer people. But they form bonds. It is not every girl for herself. And there is order to their society. The few remaining adults still hold authority over the loose coalition of cliques. There is still a sense of acting towards a collectively good and a collective goal of survival of as many as possible.
It’s honestly been too long since I last read Lord of the Flies for me to intelligently compare the two.
The disease, which affects everything living on the island—human, animal, and plant—turns things more wild, monstrous. The trees grow taller and the forest more dense. The animals in the forest grow large and turn carnivorous while their still living bodies begin to decay. It affects the girls in different ways. Some have protruding, spiked spines breaking the skin along their backs. Some glow in the dark. Some sprout scales. Girls die of the Tox—or of the changes that their bodies undergo because of it. But some survive, and not everyone who survives the painful changes views these changes as monstrous.
The government sends supplies, but there are never enough supplies, and there is never a cure.
This is a novel that explores what makes a person human.
This is a story about survival and friendship and love, about trust or distrust of the authority, particularly male and adult authority over girls. This is a story about the ties between families and friends and what might sever those bonds.
I don’t remember this being a particularly uplifting story, but it is a story about surviving disease and about surviving quarantine that some of you might find timely.
The novel itself is fairly short, clocking in at 357 pages, and I found especially its latter third fast-paced.
When Hetty, one of the POV characters, is chosen for the elite group that crosses the island to fetch the supplies from the dock and bring them back, she discovers that one of the few remaining adults, Ms. Welch, is making the girls dump many of the supplies that are sent. It is not until later that she understands that she is trying to keep the girls from being either poisoned or cured.
The disease is revealed to be a disease released from melting permafrost, so this is a science-fiction more than a fantasy, though I hope no such disease is caught in our ice.
This review is fairly incomplete, but I’m afraid it’s now been 6 months since I read it, and I passed it quickly to a friend who wanted to read it. I’m writing this one from memory, and my memory is failing me.
Power, Rory. Wilder Girls. New York: Delacorte-Penguin Random, 2019.
This review is not endorsed by Rory Power, Delacorte Press, or Penguin Random House. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.