Title: Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: 9 July 2019
Genre: Horror | Young adult
Page extent: 353 pages
Goodreads blurb: 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.
Well that was as creepy and haunting as every single book review told me it would be! I’m not usually one for horror, but I really liked this – it was a very beautiful, picturesque horror…if that makes any sense at all?! And I can absolutely never resist media about viruses.
Wilder Girls is set at an all girl’s school on Raxter Island, where everyone has been quarantined after becoming sick with a virus they call the Tox. 18 months after the first infection, Byatt, Hetty’s best friend, has gone missing so Hetty vows to break the quarantine to find her, in the end discovering so much more about the virus and what’s happening on the outside than she imagined possible.
First off: what a setting! The mysterious Raxter and the enchanting yet deadly forest surrounding it is just stunning and sets such a creepy tone for the whole novel. There was such a sense of fear every moment we spent in the forest, and in the unknown of what now lived there.
The premise of Wilder Girls is so immediately interesting: at 18 months into the virus outbreak, we don’t know what the girls have lived through, and we find out in glimpses – an eye fused shut, scales on a hand, a second spine. The progression of our insight into how this virus has affected the girls and teachers through this chilling body horror is just phenomenal. There are so many brutally horrific descriptions – which I really think enhances the realness of it all, as it feels as deadly as if it’s happening in real life. And I think that’s why I particularly love torturing myself with virus-style forms of media, because there is such a constant fear of ‘this could actually happen right now’ that just terrifies me. And I think Wilder Girls really nails this fear!!
I thought all three of our MCs were brilliant in their depictions – all fully flawed and so powerfully human in their portrayal. Hetty, the POV we read from for the majority of the book, fiercely loyal and loving and unwilling to back down to save those she loves – even if it comes at the cost of everyone else. Byatt, who’s POV intersperses Hetty’s in a dream-like haze, who loves testing people and pushing the boundaries of what she can do, with horrific consequences. And finally Reese, who keeps her emotions bound up so tightly to keep from falling apart. These three are fighters and fight to be together till the end.
Which brings me to the ending. I did feel like I’m missing something. I wanted another 30 pages to finish everything off, it was all extremely sudden and hugely open and I really wish we’d had even a tiny bit more.
But all in all, minus the ending, Wilder Girls is a great horror novel – it’s a psychologically horrific take on three young girls and their fight to stay alive.
Rach + Draco