Staff Review: The Girls
It’s the summer of 1969, and 14 year-old Evie Boyd has a lot of time on her hands. She and her best friend, Connie, have had a falling out; the boy she has a crush on has left town; her father is now living with his new girlfriend in another city; and her mother is often absent after reentering the dating scene. Alone and feeling neglected, Evie becomes drawn to Suzanne, whom she first observes dumpster-diving for food in San Francisco. Suzanne is part of a commune-like settlement led by a handsome, charismatic leader named Russell.
At the settlement, everyone lives in service of Russell, his message, and the betterment of the group as a whole. In order to fit in and grow closer to Suzanne, Evie begins to steal money from her parents and neighbors, discarded food from local stores and restaurants, and donates her own belongings to be shared among members of the group. The longer Evie stays at the settlement, the more on edge she feels. Though at times she feels wanted, needed and accepted, Evie also grapples with feeling used. She also detests the sexual advances that Russell makes on her and struggles with her morality when the group plans to murder someone who wronged them.
The main theme of this novel is the struggle most teens go through when establishing their identity and finding a place in the world, as well as how easy it is to stray off course when going through that process. The book seems to be largely inspired by Charles Manson and the Manson Family cult, who committed nine murders during the summer of ’69, which makes the plot of the book feel more believable. This is a quick, light read, and is recommended to anyone who likes fiction inspired by true crime.