Wilder Girls is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It is both terrifying to consider, and emotional to read. It’s a story about friendship, love, and sacrifice.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW Provided by Author: 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. Reference to suicide and suicidal ideation. Non-consensual medical treatment.
The setting of Wilder Girls is lush from page one. Maybe lush isn’t how you would describe it. The setting transports you to a world that’s almost primordial. With overgrown forests, dangers lurking in the shadows, and a silence that feels heavy in the air. But what Wilder Girls really shows are girls who are allowed to be wild, scarred, and terrifying – monstrous. It seems the perfect setting for changes we cannot predict and that leave us soaked in blood. But it’s also the perfect setting for exploring what happens when we are faced with our own mortality? What relationships will we create, honor, and sacrifice?
Survival and hope?
The main question, the one that will leave your stomach in knots, is: Are the girls at Raxter going to get help? They constantly assure themselves a cure is coming, help is coming, but the darker undercurrent, the thoughts no one speaks aloud is: are they? But throughout, readers are left wondering, what really happened? There are secrets and mysteries to what happened. What certain character’s motivations are – and if we can trust them. It’s a mystery in the woods, the absence of sound of rustling branches, bird calls, and moving water. Instead we startle at branches, can’t remember the sound, and no longer appreciate the wildness of nature.
Friendship and love
Wilder Girls asks us what will we do for survival, what does it bring out in us? Wilder Girls is a story also about friendship and love. Faced with mortality and all these sudden changes, the relationships that are formed evolve. They become something to anchor us to this world, the group, as it steadily becomes more uncertain. All the while it’s balanced by the difficult in having to keep losing, to say goodbye to those we love, to feel them ripped away from us, dropping all around us like flies.
There’s queer monstrous girls who are solving the mystery, figuring out the key to what is happening, and surviving. The relationships are heart warming and tender in a world that doesn’t guarantee anything for them and only seems to turn against them. There is an ominous feeling throughout the entire book, almost like when you think you see something in the corner of your eye and you can’t bring yourself to look because you’re scared of what you might see. Everyone is hiding something. Secrets that have disastrous consequences, desires we don’t have names for, and revelations that could change everything.