A boarding school beset by a deadly tox.
Girls and women holding together as the wilderness around them changes…and then they, too, begin to change.
What is life like on Raxter Island? Would you survive the tox? What can one of the Raxter girls do when her best friend disappears without “explanation”? Rory Power’s debut novel is a fascinating look into these questions and more with scientific threads and more. Wilder Girls is a fascinating novel and well worth picking up.
Published: 9 July 2019
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre(s): Young Adult/Horror/Mystery/LGBT+
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.
Please see author’s website for trigger and content warnings.
Rep: F/F relationships (main/side); bisexual MC; diverse cast including POC (though unspecified ethnicities)
Graphic violence and body horror. Gore.
On the page character death, parental death, and animal death, though the animals are not pets.
Behavior and descriptive language akin to self harm, and references to such.
Food scarcity and starvation. Emesis.
A scene depicting chemical gassing.
Suicide and suicidal ideation.
Non-consensual medical treatment.
The scientific threads woven throughout the novel were interesting. Some I wasn’t quite sure of, because the girls who were seeing it didn’t have all the information either so I had to make guesses based on their perspectives, but there was a lot of stuff going on in the background to pick at as the girls on Raxter Island tried to survive.
The way the mutations developed when the girls contracted the Tox were fascinating. I didn’t understand all of them during the reading, but Rory explained some after the fact which was nice.
Watching the way the Tox crept into the story, listening to Hetty and Byatt recall life before it and how it started in the wildlife, the woods and the creatures first, was very cool because it added to the overall horror aspect. There were scenes of body horror to be sure, due to details about what the Tox did to the girls (mutations, their brain chemistry, etc), but the timeline of everything and hearing about those events was whoa.
I picked up the Barnes & Noble edition, which I would highly recommend, because there is an extra chapter from Reese’s perspective, who we didn’t get to hear from at all in the book. It’s a quick little thing, but it’s tender and very nice. It added to the relationships that were evidenced in the main novel, the ones that propelled Hetty and Reese and all the others to last as long as they did and to do all they did during Wilder Girls.
I loved that the cast was allowed to have their strengths as individuals and as a whole, that they were allowed to be strong but also messy and vicious and just amazing. I’ve seen Wilder Girls described as a feminist Lord of the Flies and from what I know of that book, I can say that there are similarities but also it is very interesting to point out the differences. The personality stereotypes that are expected in girls vs boys, the ones that develop despite those, everything that made them able to survive Raxter Island & the Tox.
A last bit: I can’t say much but being a mystery, there are twisty bits that were “whoa” and “huh” and “wtf” that I liked and cried and cringed over. They were fun/sad/omg. 😀
The beginning of the novel was fairly slow. It took some wherewithal to stick with it, though once you get into it I will say the novel is worth it.
The ending as well suffered, I thought, though this for the opposite reason. It felt entirely too quick. I turned the last page and was sincerely confused because it felt like there was something missing, like the writing was cut off in a hurry because…what? Because the author wanted to leave the option open to return to Raxter or the world around the island? As far as I know this is a standalone, but there are so many threads remaining in the book that it really could be at least a duology.
There were strong relationships, eerie scenes, and a lot of interesting moments that played out in Wilder Girls. The beginning was a bit of a letdown because of the time it took to pick up. The ending was definitely a letdown, but overall the novel was satisfactory. I’m be curious to see what Rory Power will write in the future.
Would You Survive The Tox?
Kelly from Bookish created a flowchart for the release of Wilder Girls to determine whether readers would survive.
Myself…yeah, I died. ^^; I almost made it, but the girls in Wilder Girls have a bond that really helps them out and I’m better working on my own which would not work out in this situation. What about you? How far would you make it?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.
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