Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

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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.

I’ve been really wanting to read this for a while, but felt like it wasn’t the right time with the current state of the world. However, after falling into a bit of a reading hangover after taking part in a 48 hour readathon last weekend, I was craving a horror book. I’m not sure why, as I tend to not read much horror, and this was the only one on my shelf that could be classed as such. I was hesitant picking this up due to the whole virus theme, but I’m glad I did.

This book was perfect to get me out of my hangover, because it sucked me in and didn’t let me go. I just really wanted to carry on reading as this was so easy to get through over a couple of days. The plot is so compelling and I couldn’t help but carry on reading to see what was going to happen next. I read 220 pages of it in one day, and it felt like I was reading nothing at all because it was so quick to read! However, even though this writing is easy to read, the topics are unbearably heavy, and I will be leaving a lot of content warnings at the bottom of this review.

I think I’d been looking for it all my life

I really enjoyed the characters in this book, and the whole concept of feminist horror draws me in, and I loved that this was set around female friendships and a f/f romance. Although the characters are quite disturbed and in some ways, unlikable, I actually really liked reading about them. Because of the setting of this book, the girls are bound to make decisions that are questionable and that is exactly what happens in this book. But they are going through so much, I couldn’t not feel sympathetic towards them. I also loved the strong, sisterly bonds between the girls and the female strength portrayed throughout this story was brilliant to read.

The horror elements are utterly disturbing, I wouldn’t say this book is necessarily ‘creepy’ or has any jump scares as such, but some of the parts of it are so visceral they are bound to make your skin crawl. I wasn’t sure how I would get on with this, but I did really enjoy the story despite the difficult elements! I also really enjoyed the fact this book is set on an island, and I found it so consuming to read about.

a storm in my body to match the one in my head.

Overall, this wasn’t quite a 5 star read for me but was still super enjoyable and I’m really looking forward to reading Burn Our Bodies Down!

CW (taken from Rory Power’s webiste) Graphic violence and body horror, gore, on the page character death, parental death, and animal death (the animals are not pets), behavior and descriptive language akin to self harm, and references to such, food scarcity and starvation, emesis, scene depicting chemical gassing, suicide and suicidal ideation, non-consensual medical treatment.

I also think it’s worth just re-noting that this book does focus predominately on a virus, which is a whole other trigger warning and issue as we live in a Covid world!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Horrid by Katrina Leno

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Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.
As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiralling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all — it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….
Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more… horrid?

I’m not usually one for horror books, but this one caught my eye and I really wanted to give it a go. When Blue offered to sell me their Owlcrate edition, I decided to try it. I have to say, this one didn’t disappoint and I’m really glad I picked it up. I did want to save this for Halloween season, but I picked this out of my TBR jar and I thought, why not?

This book was utterly enthralling and I struggled to put it down. It is written in large (25-100ish pages each, averaging at about 50 at a guess) sections rather than chapters, which I was originally apprehensive about but it really worked. I flew through this because I just couldn’t stop reading and I really wanted to know what was going to happen.

Jane had recently lost her father, which meant a big move for her and her mother from California to small town Maine where her mother grew up in a spooky old manor house. I absolutely adored the atmosphere, it really encapsulated the feeling of this book. The whole town has a creepy, isolated feel but especially the manor. I was utterly gripped by this book, especially the spooky scenes. It terrified me, but I loved it, because it was so cleverly done.

I think the important thing to realize, to try and remember, is that grief doesn’t have a rule book. 

Throughout the book, the mystery surrounding the house is slowly revealed to Jane, and she realises she does have reason to be scared of the big old house, which is shrouded in darkness. If this book was one thing, it was super dark. It demonstrates the darkest parts of the human mind, and felt so harrowing for it. I really enjoyed the way the mystery was revealed, although the ending did let me down slightly. I just expected it to be a little clearer, and I was left with a lot of questions. It was left very open, which lets the reader decide for themselves how the book really ends, but this just didn’t quite appeal to me personally and did make this not quite 5 stars.

Grief, mental illness and pica (a disorder when people eat things that have no nutritional value) are at the forefront of this book. I thought the depiction of grief was very well done, and I really sympathised with Jane. The quote I’ve included in this review really pinpoints the tone this book took with grief. Mental illness, especially anger issues, were prominent and I really appreciated the way Horrid talked about mental illness passing down between family members.

You’re allowed to feel every emotion under the sun. You’re even allowed to invent new ones. I think I’ve done that a few times

Overall, this was definitely a bit of a pleasant surprise considering I don’t usually drift towards horror. The writing really stood out, and was beautiful yet jarring. I also loved that Jane worked at a bookshop and was a reader herself. I actually really sympathised with her which shows how clever the writing was. The plot was enthralling and thrilling, with some absolutely spine chilling scenes. If you do enjoy a good scare, that has some poignant writing about family, mental illness and grief, I couldn’t recommend this enough.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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