published: 6th February 2020
Everyone loses something to the Tox; Hetty lost her eye, Reese’s hand has changed, and Byatt just disappeared completely.
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put in quarantine. The Tox turned the students strange and savage, the teachers died off one by one. Cut off from the mainland, the girls don’t dare wander past the school’s fence where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure as the Tox takes; their bodies becoming sick and foreign, things bursting out of them, bits missing.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her best friend, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie in the wilderness past the fence. As she digs deeper, she learns disturbing truths about her school and what else is living on Raxter Island. And that the cure might not be a cure at all…
Galley provided by publisher
CWs: body horror, gore, suicide of a side character (on page), implied torture (off page)
Wilder Girls is one of those books that reminds you just why YA dystopian fiction can be so great. It centres on the power of friendships in the worst possible circumstances, as well as providing some hope for the future. It is, in short, pretty fucking great.
The story is set in an island school, following the outbreak of a disease called the Tox, a disease which alternately drives its victims mad or causes strange things to burst out of their bodies. The school is under quarantine, and no one is allowed outside of the quarantine zone except those lucky few who go to collect the supplies the Navy sends.
I don’t think it would be that amiss to say not a whole lot happens in this book. It’s definitely more of your character-driven sort of science fiction/horror novel. And that’s great here, because the characters Rory Power creates are amazing and what drives the book for me is their relationships, particularly the one between Hetty, Byatt and Reese. It was definitely the relationship between the three of them that kept me reading the book (I mean, not that I was ever in danger of stopping).
And then there’s the writing. It’s one of those great styles that’s easy and quick to read, while also being very evocative and tense where needed. And there are definitely moments of tension (and sadness, like, the whole of Byatt’s arc). There were parts where my heart was distinctly beating faster because of the tension.
I will say though, at the end, I sort of could guess where the plot was going. Actually, I could guess from the moment Byatt was first given a POV. It’s not really hard to see it, but it’s also not a book where that matters because it’s about the characters rather than the plot, really. It’s also not quite as gory as I was expecting, given the reviews, though that might say less about the book and more about the fact I was reading a history book on the Plantagenets beforehand. Puts everything into perspective.
So yeah. In case, for whatever reason, you hadn’t read the book (though why you wouldn’t have when I’m obviously the one lightyears behind on it), I’m telling you now to read it.