Published by Wednesday Books (October 8th 2019)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Wednesday Books, and the author via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
In Garner County being born female means that as of the age of sixteen, you possess the power to lure men from their marriage beds and tempt them, while driving other women insane with jealousy. At the age of sixteen, the females in the County first go through a ceremony where only a few are chosen as a wife before being sent off for a year to dispel themselves of their magic – this is The Grace Year. Tierney James holds no dreams of being chosen for a wife, she finds more freedom in the thought that she could be working the fields for the rest of her life. So on the day before she is to depart for a year, she is as surprised as anyone when she is handed a veil. One of the biggest fears, that is drummed into the girls as they grow, is of the poachers who live outside the county and hunt the girls as they travel to their grace year location, and continue to hunt them upon their arrival, the girls are told how the poachers catch them and cut them up into little pieces to be sold on the black market. However, what Tierney discovers upon arrival at the camp where thirty three girls will spend the next twelve months is, the poachers may not be the worst thing out there.
Wow. I finished this book in a day, and I feel like it tore me apart when I finished it. It made me feel ALL of the things and I just didn’t know how to deal with life when it ended. I feel that this book is like if The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies and The Handmaid’s Tail (even though I haven’t read it) had a baby. It’s a dystopian world where the patriarchy rules and women are second class citizens, feared because as a teenager they posses magic that draws men to distraction. So I already had a pretty good idea that the whole social situation was going to bug the hell out of me, but to be honest, it was really well written and while I was annoyed at the society and their beliefs, it only added to the depth of the story.
Tierney is a well written character though she did bug me a little off and on. When the girls first get to the place where they’re spending their Grace Year, instead of trying to just blend in and get through it the best she could, she was continuing to be her regular abrasive self which ended up segregating her from the rest of the girls. She complained about being alone, but wasn’t willing to compromise in order to make her situation that little bit more bearable. Though I guess we weren’t here to read a nice sweet story where every one gets along. We learn from pretty early on that there is a sliver of Mean Girls in here, because let’s face it…girls can be incredibly bitchy, and we are not let down as Kiersten is pretty bitchy, and doesn’t make things easy, she’s also a fan of turning girls against others. I enjoyed the characters of the story for all of their flaws, flaws make a character more real to me. Though I feel this story is more plot driven than character driven, I still felt like the characters were well written and each had a very distinct voice.
The way this story was written was amazing to me. The pace was epic, and I honestly felt like I couldn’t put the book down, that probably had something to do with the weird formatting of the eARC that I received. There were no page breaks or chapters really. I mean, there were chapters, but there was like five? Maybe six? in the whole book. I think I read in another review that in the final copy there were little page breaks which separated the story into proper portions. Honestly though, it didn’t even bug me, I was quite happy to keep powering through because I just loved the story THAT much.
This is a rather feminist book in the characters ideals and thoughts and dreams, but that’s probably where it ends. There is a lot of female attacking female, and they don’t really stick up for each other where I feel that they should have living in the society that they do. I feel like this story was more about a society who were learning and taking the steps needed, it wasn’t a society that was born with a feminist view (obviously), but we see a feminist society in the making which was kind of cool.
I was a bit taken back by the violence that we experience, but this is what led me to see the parallels between Lord of the Flies and this book – it shows us what power can do to people (as well as other things impacting this but I won’t go into it). There is also a hint of romance which I thought was done tastefully. I just honestly can’t stop thinking about the story and the way things went. I’ll say that the story didn’t exactly end in the way that I was hoping it would, but I guess you can’t have books all end the way you want, where is the fun in that. I did have fun being surprised by certain revelations and the ending did surprise me as I wasn’t expecting it to go the way it did. Finding everything out when the character did was great fun, however, in the first portion of the book, I had a couple of things worked out which made me anxious to just hurry up and get to their reveal, the rest of the book kept throwing surprises at me and I just enjoyed it so much.
I’m seriously rambling now, and I don’t think anything of what I’ve said above really made sense. It’s a book that looks at the patriarchal society, I felt for the women in the County, all of them, even the nasty ones. Finding out what’s actually been going on for as long as anyone knows, was a shocking revelation to me and I felt everything Tierney did. This book left me wanting it to continue, I flew through the story and really connected with all the characters. I recommend it highly.