Book Review: The Girls


Ahh, the much anticipated, celebrity-book-listed, book of the Fall season, The Girls by Emma Cline. I was very intrigued by this book since it had been hyped so much, and after reading it am somewhat mystified by the noise around it. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad book. But if I had the ear of millions of people, it's definitely not the first one I would recommend either. I'll start with what I liked, compliment sandwich style. Emma Cline's use of language is incredible, and her ability to set a scene and make you feel every detail of that scene is unparalleled. Those tiny things you notice but would never think to write down, or describe in the way she does, and then the way she builds entire characters and events out of those details is amazing. You can feel sticky heat, the stings of shame, the meaning imbued in a moment's hesitation or a sideways glance. All of those microscopic tinges are blown up to full size, and make the book rich.

Ok, so, I loved Cline's writing, why was the book just meh? The content was really the downfall of this book. I didn't find any of the characters compelling, and found it painfully slow at many points. There's a murder set up in the opening paragraphs which becomes the climax of the story, but the journey to that climax takes so long and involves little to no detail about the murder. Someone dies, and we don't even know or care about that person. The murder is supposed to be the climax, but at the end falls utterly flat. I will give Cline credit for her time-jumping between modern day and memory. She used it well to develop the main character and made it obvious which era you were currently reading, both of which are hard to do well and hard to do well at the same time. But in the end that definitely couldn't save a half-hearted story.

If you're thinking about picking it up, and leave it at the bottom of your to-read list. It's definitely worth giving a try, but I wouldn't hurry to read it.