Fourteen year old Evie has got a long summer ahead of her before she is shipped off to boarding school. She falls out with her best friend, her mum spends her time with her new boyfriend and her dad lives elsewhere with his new wife. Evie finds herself alone and desperate for attention. Then one day in a park, she notices a couple of strange girls and follows them to a dumpster where they collect dinner. She meets them again when her bike slips its chain and they offer her a lift to their ranch. There she finds the attention she has been craving. Everyone is chilled out and interested in her. And everyone is in awe of Russell. He is the manipulative head of the cult and he welcomes Evie with open arms. She spends the summer at the ranch, doing drugs and learning about sex, only returning home to keep up appearances (and steal money from her mum). But when Russell doesn't get the record deal he thinks he is due, things go very bad and Evie has a narrow escape.
This is not the kind of book I would normally read. It is a kind of coming of age story which is not my preferred genre. Evie is a lonely, bored and vulnerable teenage girl with low self-esteem, just crying out to be noticed - one of thousands in every generation. It is easy to see how some can be in thrall to sick men like Russell. Her gradual integration into the ranch community was chilling. I liked the end, proving that you can find friends and a sense of belonging in less dangerous surroundings.The writing was great, descriptive enough to let you see the details but it didn't get bogged down.
I loved this book. It is a must read for every parent with a teenage daughter. Or maybe not, I don't think I could have stomached it when my daughter was that age.
“Poor girls. The world fattens them on the promise of love. How badly they need it, and how little most of them will ever get.”
Evie Boyd is now in her fifties as she reflects back on her time as a 14 year old living in late ‘60s Northern California. As with most 14 year old girls, Evie is young, impressionable and longing to find her place in the world. She comes across a group of young women in the park and their carefree ways captivate her. Soon she manages to befriend one of these young women, Suzanne. Suzanne takes her under her wing. Evie is swept into Suzanne’s world when they visit the ranch where the girls are living. She is introduced to their leader, Russell Hadrick. Russell is an enigmatic man who has this fantastic following and seems to be on the edge of fame. He and his “family” seem to have the world in the palm of their hands and Evie can’t resist the pull.
This book has gotten rave reviews. Perhaps I am alone in not finding it all that captivating. None of the characters in this book were likeable including the main character, Evie. It’s so obvious that this is a fictional representation of a young girl being taken into a Charles Manson-like cult. Knowing the outcome of that horrendous true-crime story makes it hard for me to understand how anyone could be lured to it. I read Helter Skelter when I was very young and I was appalled by it. I didn’t get how those young women could be drawn to such a monster and I still don’t get it even after reading this book. Someone of a younger generation who cannot recall those events so easily might find this book much more riveting than I did. Like Gone Girl, this book just made me want to take a shower.
Each generation has their version of living on the edge and doing things that seem taboo. The 60s were a great turning point in the freedoms that society experiences to this day. It was a turbulent time of change for young people. Emma Cline takes us into the head of one young girl during that time. Evie became easily misdirected and her poor decisions will forever haunt her. To me, there is one very important point here. When we are young our expectations of the world are high. Society leads us to believe that things should be a certain way. We begin to realize during adolescence that maybe for some of us those things aren’t that easy to come by. Is the world going to be disappointed by us? Are we going to be disappointed by it? The heart can be a lonely confusing place and we all long to belong somewhere. As we grow away from some we’ve been close to and towards new people, we each have an inner journey going on that no one else is privy to. Cline did indeed give us a vivid picture of the strife that can come with this journey.
I want to thank the publisher (Random House Publishing Group – Random House) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.