Book Review - The Girls by Emma Cline
Evie Boyd was a lonely teenager who got caught up in an infamous cult led by a charismatic man (aren't they all?) But Evie was particularly mesmerized by Suzanne who seemed so exotic: free and careless.
I was drawn to this book because, well, cults are fascinating. I had just finished watching Big Love on HBO and Going Clear, a documentary about Scientology. I was ready for an enthralling novel about a new cult. But the best part about "The Girls" by Emma Cline was the social commentary on what it is like to grow up female. The story didn't capture me the way I thought it would, so although the story was fine it didn't live up to my expectations.
I've included a few of my favorite quotes:
“That was part of being a girl--you were resigned to whatever feedback you'd get. If you got mad, you were crazy, and if you didn't react, you were a bitch. The only thing you could do was smile from the corner they'd backed you into. Implicate yourself in the joke even if the joke was always on you.”
I think most girls have experienced this a time or two - they reacted to something one way and they were called crazy. Next time, they reacted a different way and this time they were a bitch. No matter how they react or didn't react they'd lose. We love to slap negative labels on women based on their reactions to situations.
“I waited to be told what was good about me. [...] All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you- the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.”
I used to teach a unit at Indiana University that discussed how women were portrayed by the fashion industry through marketing and advertising, particularly in fashion magazines. My students would flip through magazines looking for evidence of sexism (such as dismemberment, when only parts of women's bodies were shown and their face was obscured.) My students didn't realized the disparity between advertisements showing women and advertisements showing men - the different messages sent to each gender. Evie was so much more aware that the articles she was reading affected how she interacted with the world - so much more aware than I was at her age.
“At that age, I was, first and foremost, a thing to be judged, and that shifted the power in every interaction onto the other person."
Growing up is hard. Am I right? Why do we care so much about what other people think in high school? I can remember thinking my whole week was ruined because I missed going to a football game Friday night. I wouldn't "be seen" at THE place to see and be seen. The drama! What would people think?! Or what if I was caught getting the mail without makeup on? I'd never! Life is so hard to live when you're constantly worried about being judged by others. I'd love to hear a psychologists perspective on why teenagers are so hard on themselves. It is a classic, "I wish I knew then what I know now."
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