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.
Wilder Girls takes the essence of most YA sci-fi/dystopian novels and tightens the net around them. What’s left is a small island in the Atlantic Ocean called Raxter Island. It’s a school for girls that was doing relatively well on its own. Until the Tox hit. It affected each girl differently. Hetty’s eye began bleeding, and she had to sew it shut. Byatt’s spine warped and is now visible on her back, and Reese’s hand has become a hardened silver. The Tox affected the adults differently, and most of them died shortly after it began. The younger girls weren’t that affected until they hit puberty and the Tox spiked in them.
Hetty, like every other Raxter girl, knows she can’t go beyond the security fence. It’s what protects them from what’s out there, because the Tox didn’t just affect the girls. It’s changed the animals that live on the island as well. The deer have fangs, and the bears, well, they’re different too. But when Byatt goes missing beyond the fence, Hetty decides breaking the rule is worth the possibility of saving Byatt.
I loved this book. I’ve read a lot of YA books that have similar features, such as the Hunger Games series, the Divergent books, The Grace Year, The Power, and others. But most of those, while still good books, share a lot of the same qualities: one main female protagonist, a raging war in the background that the female protagonist becomes the figurehead for, etc. Of the ones I just listed, The Power is the most unique, but Wilder Girls is even greater than The Power when it comes to concept and tension and charting the spread of this newfound “illness” that only seems to affect women a certain way. The Tox does affect men, but in a different way. It hits them harder and faster and most of the time the man either succumbs and dies quickly, like most of the older women did, or it takes over them and they become a shell of a man, reminiscent of a zombie in that they lose their individual agency and become strictly a body that is controlled by the disease.
The three main girls, Hetty, Reese, and Byatt, are strong and compelling characters, and they each exist on their own with their own story and personality and character arc. Together, it makes for a riveting read because it’s not the recycled formula of one major female lead with a cast of supporting characters. Hetty is the central character because we’re in her perspective for a majority of the novel, but we also get to hear from Byatt. In addition to the badass triad of our lead characters, there’s a cast of fully developed periphery characters, and then the science behind the concept of the Tox and how it affects women is pure perfection. It’s thrilling to learn about how the Tox organically affects people, and why it causes the mutations it does, as well as how it began.
Wilder Girls is Rory Power’s first novel, and I’m thrilled that she already has a second novel out, Burn Our Bodies Down, that I most definitely intend to read in the near future, as well as several more books that she’s currently working on, according to her website and Goodreads. I don’t want to make this a full statement yet, but Power may become one of my all-time favorite authors. I can’t wait to read Burn Our Bodies Down and see what else Power has in store for us.
PUBLICATION DEETS: Delacorte Press, July 9, 2019, 357 pages
CATEGORIES: YA, sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian