Friday, January 13, 2017

The Girls - by Emma Cline

Emma Cline's debut novel follows the story of fourteen-year old Evie Boyd during the summer of 1969. She is adjusting to her parents' divorce, and getting ready to go away to boarding school in the fall. Eschewing her best friend Connie and suburban life, she is drawn to a group of seemingly carefree girls she sees in a park and eventually follows them to the ranch where they live with their cult-leader, Russell. The ranch is a thrilling and dangerous place that draws Evie in by degrees. The summer culminates in a Helter Skelter-esque massacre. The story bounces between the events of the summer, and reflections of Evie as an adult.

This one almost didn't make the cut for this blog. The lone mention of a library comes on page 297 (of 355). It is, however, exactly the kind of thing that makes me reflect on how we see libraries. Evie accepts a ride from a college student while hitchhiking back to the ranch. She invites him to stay and look around. The not-yet-a-high-school girl showing the naive college boy the ropes makes for an awkward juxtaposition. Evie is aware of the power she has in the situation and susses it out
Tom was clearly uncomfortable. I was sure he was used to college girls with part-time jobs and library cards and split ends. Helen and Donna and Suzanne were raw, a sour note coming off them...I didn't want to notice the hesitation in Tom, the shade of cower whenever Donna addressed him directly.
Evie's simplification that decent people have library cards and dangerous people don't on one level fits in with the stereotype of libraries as "good" places - a place we should support. However, it is also true that there are those who see the libraries as dangerous as well. Providing the masses with books and ideas can only lead to trouble.

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