Alright. Here’s the thing. I love it when people praise a book. When they talk about it’s ground breaking and unique. I love books and want them to be good. But I’m going to have to start ignoring hype. Because Rory Power was supposed to rock my world with Wilder Girls but I was so underwhelmed.
I had never heard of Rory Power before this. But I’d seen Wilder Girls on the internet and at Barns and Noble. Everyone was like omg yes feminine, LGBTQ+, horror, with some maybe sci-fi thrown in. And I was like whattttt lemme get my hands on that. So I got a copy, cracked it open, read 200 pages in one sitting, then put the book down. For two weeks. I don’t like reading two books at once but I literally started and finished another book before I picked this one back up.
Let me try to explain why.
Raxter School, a boarding school for girls, is under quarantine. Has been actually, for more than a year. There’s a virus, nicknamed the Tox because we couldn’t come up with anything better then an abbreviation on toxic, that has infected every person, animal, and plant on the small island. The Navy drops off supplies every so often and told them to stay alive. That they were working on a cure. But when the main character’s BFF goes missing, they have to find her. An interesting premise, no?
Then, we get to page 16. Something about the Navy’s instructions came across weird. So I turn to my best friend and I say, so the Navy is experimenting on the girls. And the only two adults left on the island are probably in on it, otherwise they wouldn’t be alive. And because she’s reading her own book, she tells me to shush.
Not that this one has to be Michael Crichton levels of science trickery but could we have done something a little less predictable? Or put a spin on the otherwise very obvious? But fine. We’ll push past the glaring plot issues.
In my experience, good horror should elevate an otherwise common element. Paul Tremblay is a master of this, his horror actually addressing issues like mental health, the media, fate, destiny. Positive by David Wellington is seemingly about a zombie virus but is actually about how we treat those who are ‘other’ and illnesses and human nature.
The horror elements in Wilder Girls were just a lot of blood. And broken body parts. And a lot of girls hurting each other badly for various reasons. Ok? Like, why did I need to be told about that much blood? Is it some terrible statement about girls bodies? Because we need that in this day and age. But for Power’s sake, we’ll also push past the genre issues I had.
What is left? The lesbian elements were positioned in such a way that our main character seemed like she only liked girls because girls were the only people around. I’m not a part of the LGBTQ+ community but that felt invalidating for those who are.
Not to mention that I didn’t like our main character, Hetty. In fact, I didn’t like anyone in this book. Except like, one girl who was mentioned in passing. Other than her, I didn’t care one bit about if they lived or not. They were all terrible. Why would Power write them in such a way? I couldn’t figure it out.
And you’re probably thinking to yourself, Allison, they’re fighting for survival, this isn’t summer camp. And I would say you’re right. But there’s a difference between making sure you stay alive and being a horrible person for no reason.
And while I’m on this wild rant, which I wasn’t expecting but can’t seem to stop, let’s talk about how we switch perspectives between Hetty and her best friend Byatt. Yes those are the character’s names. Yes they’re horrible. But back to the dual perspectives, I couldn’t figure out what Power was trying to accomplish. It shed a lot of light from a plot stand point but it made be be like, Hetty don’t bother saving this girl. She sucks. Try to save yourself or literally anyone else. And the plot elements could have been conveyed some other way.
Last but not least, the truly terrible ending. 0/10. I’m fine with a lack of answers if that means there’s a larger point being made, or if it’s supposed to be thought provoking in some other way. Nope. This one was just like, how do we get out of this wild hole that’s been dug in the ground. Oh, we don’t.
Rereading what I’ve written, I feel kinda bad. I know Rory Power wrote this book and it probably took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. This is someone’s baby. But Lord it is just terrible. I’m sorry Rory Power.
For someone like me, that is. However, I’m kinda picky about books (shocking). So if some of these elements sound intriguing or if you think I’m full of it, I encourage you to read Wilder Girls. Form an opinion for yourself. And if you think I’m totally wrong, let me know. I love a good discussion.