Earlier this year, Bookish debuted Kelly’s Pick, a new feature to help you and your book club decide what to read next—including exclusive materials hand-curated by the Bookish team! We’re thrilled to announce the summer 2019 Kelly’s Pick: Wilder Girls by Rory Power. It’s a dark and captivating tale that we think will add some spark to your next book club meeting. Here’s a sneak peek at what the book is about, why Kelly picked it, the goodies you’ll get in the book club kit, and how you can enter to win a copy.
What it’s about
Here’s a look at the official synopsis from Underlined:
A feminist Lord of the Flies about three best friends living in quarantine at their island boarding school, and the lengths they go to uncover the truth of their confinement when one disappears. This fresh, new debut is a mind-bending novel unlike anything you’ve read before.
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.
The Bookish take
Wilder Girls starts with a single question: What is happening to the girls on this island? A sickness known as the Tox has infected every living thing on Raxter Island. You either evolve with it or you die. The surviving girls have acquired unique qualities from the Tox (one possesses glowing hair, another a second spine, a third finds herself covered in boils) but they all know it could take their lives at any time. Despite promises of a cure from the government, Hetty realizes their situation is dire. When her friend suddenly disappears, Hetty goes looking for her and begins to uncover clues along the way. Each new bit of information she finds leads to another, and soon other questions are piling up: Who can she trust? Who knows more than they let on? Is anyone ever coming to save them? Does she even want to be saved? While some may compare it to Lord of the Flies, Rory Power’s debut stands on its own as a dark exploration of the desire for autonomy and agency, the ways girls adapt in order to survive, and the ways society fails to protect girls.
Why Kelly picked it
“When I began searching for the summer 2019 Kelly’s Pick, I wanted to choose something that felt very different from our first pick, Queenie. My ideal book club would read widely across a variety of genres, and I want our selections to reflect that. But I also wanted our first two picks to share a few things in common, and sure enough, both books are by debut authors, both have utterly gorgeous covers, and both highlight the impact of societal expectations and assumptions on girls.
Rory Power’s debut is strange, beautiful, and viscerally uncomfortable at points. As I read, I knew this was a book readers would have strong opinions about—and to me, that’s key in a book club pick. It’s great if everyone enjoys the book, but it’s even better if everyone has something to say about it. Needless to say, Wilder Girls left the Bookish team with a lot to say.
As an all-female book club, we instantly began dissecting the novel’s feminist themes, covering everything from what the Tox symptoms represented to queer idenity to the sexist expectation that female characters be likable (spoiler alert: these girls aren’t, and we loved that). There’s also a mystery at the heart of this book, which offered us plenty of opportunities to put on our detective hats to speculate and swap theories.
The Bookish team had a great time discussing this book, and I think your club will too. If you let it, this book will infect you in the best possible way.” —Kelly
Who will enjoy Wilder Girls?
Wilder Girls is weird, dark, and filled with body horror. It’s also quiet, beautiful, and sad. Power drew inspiration from both Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation and Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us. If your book club enjoys discussing complex female characters, friendships with a feverish intensity, and the experiences that shape and form girls’ lives, this is for you. It’s a great pick for readers who enjoy books without clear-cut answers, who analyze metaphors, and who don’t mind when things get a little (or a lot) gross.
What you’ll get in Kelly’s Pick book club kit
Our coverage of each Kelly’s Pick will include exclusive materials for your book club to use. We’ll have the essentials like a discussion guide and food and drink suggestions, but also fun extras like a quiz and a themed playlist. Consider Kelly’s Pick your one-stop shop for a Wilder Girls book club meeting!
How you can get an early copy
Wilder Girls hits shelves on July 9, but we’re giving you a first look. Visit BookishFirst.com to read an excerpt of Wilder Girls, and enter the raffle for your chance to win the full book! After you read the excerpt, just give a quick first impression of the book and you’ll be entered to win one of 100 advance reading copies. The raffle closes on May 20, but the excerpt will remain available to reread while you wait for your copy to arrive.
Who’s the author?
Rory Power grew up in Boston, received her undergraduate degree at Middlebury College, and went on to earn an MA in prose fiction from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Massachusetts. Wilder Girls is her first novel.
Content warnings (spoilers ahead!)
Not every book is right for every reader, and some books contain potentially triggering content. On her website, Power lists the warnings that readers may want to be aware of before deciding to read. We’ve listed them below.
Wilder Girls contains graphic violence, body horror, gore, references to self harm, behavior and descriptive language akin to self harm, food scarcity, starvation, emesis, chemical gassing, references to suicide and suicidal ideation, non-consensual medical treatment, and on page deaths of characters, parental figures, and animals (none of the animals are pets).