Wilder Girls by Rory Power // A Story of Friendship on a Dystopian Island

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.

“It’s like that, with all of us here. Sick, strange, and we don’t know why. Things bursting out of us, bits missing and pieces sloughing off, and then we harden and smooth over.”

Hetty, Byatt, and Reese. Three seemingly normal girls but all living on an island quarantined from the world. Their bodies changing because of something called the Tox. An unknown contagion that makes girls go mad, grow things, and rip themselves apart. It's been more than a year on this island and everything stays the same. The same sickness, lack of food, and always a girl on the edge of dying. But Byatt's gone missing and Hetty swears to find her. What secrets will she uncover while doing so?

Hetty: The Disaster

Hetty is our main character. She is who we see most of point of view wise. She's also a walking disaster. I've never seen a girl make so many mistakes. She is very close with Byatt to a point where she may be in love with her. She needs to find her. She also starts discovering well kept secrets from the rest of the girls. She knows that Byatt's in trouble but she gets into situations that harms the rest of the group. She can be quite compelling and I found her narrative of what happens when the Tox hits you season after season fascinating. But she's still a mess.

Byatt: The Loyal One

“I think I’d been looking for it all my life a storm in my body to match the one in my head.”

Byatt is like the middle man between Hetty and Reese. She looks out for her friends like they all do. All of the girls on their island form cliques. But she really looks out for Hetty. She comforts her and makes sure she's eating enough. She's also very loyal when she gets into a certain situation. She becomes more complicated as you move into the story. There is a confusing scene where she like Hetty puts someone in harms way knowing the risk. 

Reese: The Loner

“We don’t get to choose what hurts us.”

Reese has lost a lot which makes her closed off. Hetty can't seem to read her. She's the more aggressive one out of the three. She has no qualms about looking out only for herself and those she cares about but does she really care about them? There is a switch in her that didn't feel authentic but basically she's soft on the inside and hard on the outside.

Image by Fujixia

Wilder Girls started off really well for me. The premise, the weird mutations, the personalities of the main characters, and the anticipation of where will this story take me had me loving this book. There was so many intriguing things that the author could have pulled from and in some cases she did and in others not so much. Like with the romance. It was set up to be Hetty with one girl that made total sense but then she was thrown with a different girl all of a sudden. There was also the fact that Byatt was somewhere else and it seemed like she was gone a long time but in Hetty's POV it's been like what... two days then it's a week later all of a sudden. The time was all off. Hetty herself was making decisions that harmed all the other girls. She feels very badly and all but there were no consequences to her actions. Everyone else suffered more than she did for her selfish reasons. Byatt had a strange personality shift where she also actively hurt someone and none of it seemed fair. I get that this story focuses on these main characters but they didn't deserve anything at the end of their story. 

Saying that, I loved the first half of this book so much. I was so into this story. I was excited to see what would happen next with all the characters. What was going to happen. I can't wait until Hetty realizes she's in love. All that and more. It was just the change with the romance, Byatt's personality, and Hetty just ruining everything for everyone else. I still enjoyed myself but the ending kind of doubled down on everything I felt was wrong about the book. It was very disappointing. I am so curious if anyone's read this and what they thought about that ending. I really wish this was better but I enjoyed Wilder Girls for what it was -  a dive into a horror dystopian with friendship and queer love as its main ingredients.


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