Published; July 9, 2019
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
Rory Power’s Wilder Girls is an unearthly read that takes a hard and disturbing look at what happens when a mysterious plague-like disease called the Tox infects the entire population of an all-girls boarding school off the coast of Maine.
When Wilder Girls opens, many are already dead, both teachers and students, and the entire island has been in quarantine for eighteen months. Boats periodically come and drop off supplies for the quarantined survivors, but aside from that and the occasional promise that the CDC is doing everything they can to find a cure, there is no contact with the outside world.
The author does a wonderful job of creating an eerie and terrifying atmosphere by plunging her readers right into the action and showing us what the Tox has done to the girls. Even with our first glance around the school, we see a girl whose arm has suddenly grown reptilian-like scales on it, another girl whose eye has sealed shut and now appears to be growing something beneath the seal, and even a girl who appears to have grown a second spine that protrudes out of her back. And that’s just scratching the surface of ways this disease is manifesting itself. The mood is dark and desperate, there aren’t nearly enough supplies being sent, and most social conventions have flown out the window as the name of the game is survival. I read somewhere that this book is considered a feminist retelling of Lord of the Flies, and from those first moments, I definitely felt a similar vibe between the two books.
The opening scenes caused me to ask question after question and even got my inner conspiracy theorist humming. What the heck is the Tox? Why are everyone’s physical symptoms so different? Why the total isolation, without even radio contact? Is the government responsible for the tox? If not, is it something alien? And on and on, you get the idea. This is a book that will definitely make you think and it’s also a quick read because you’ll find yourself just dying to get all of your questions answered.
I enjoyed the friendship of the three main characters, Hetty, Byatt, and Reese. These three girls are very loyal to each other and do everything they can to make sure all three of them have the best chance of survival. When Byatt unexpectedly disappears. Hetty and Reese make it their mission to find out what has happened to her. What they find as they search for her is every bit as disturbing as the Tox itself and adds tremendous tension and suspense to what is already a book that you won’t want to put down.
I only gave the book 3 stars because I had a a few issues with it. The first is that I didn’t find the explanation for the Tox to be thorough enough for my liking. As interesting as it was, I felt like it was explained in a very vague way. Also, even though I liked the dynamic of their friendship, I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the three main characters. I don’t want to say that I didn’t care about what happened to them because that’s not true, but I just felt like they were at arm’s length and would have preferred getting to know a little more about each of them. One final issue I had was the ending, which was just way too open-ended for my liking.
There were just too many unanswered questions and I felted cheated.
BUT, I did LOVE the cover! (5 stars for the cover)