The Girls takes place in California in the 1960s, and focuses on 14-year-old Evie falling into a fictionalized version of Charles Manson’s “family”/cult, whose members go on to commit murder. Initially, I was turned off by the pretend Manson, but as the story built momentum, that gripe fell by the wayside. Told in present-day by the now-adult Evie and in flashbacks to her younger self.
The Girls isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but its power lies in showing how quickly a disenchanted kid, ignored by her parents, can so quickly and completely slide into a new horrifying lifestyle under their noses.
It’s terrifying in its depiction of a muddled, confused teen who just wants to be liked — and the lengths she’ll go to make that happen — and what truly scared me was how much of my younger self I recognized in her. The constant hashing and re-hashing of every situation to see what I should’ve done or said differently? Check. Complete paranoia that everyone is watching me, all the time? Check. Evie’s internal dialogue perfectly nails the discomfort of those gawky, cringey preteen years, and Cline does it with empathy.
Recommended for: fans of the ’60s; Manson junkies; parents of teens and preteens, to remind you of what it felt like to incessantly question yourself and not know where you fit in in the world.