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Caught up in the Hype   1 comment

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In Emma Cline’s novel, The Girls, narrator Evie Boyd recalls her involvement as a 14-year-old with a Charles Manson-like cult. The names are changed, the location is different, but Evie’s perspective still provides enough nuanced similarities to the Helter Skelter summer of 1969.

The setting is northern California. Evie’s parents are divorced and after falling out with her childhood friend, Evie meets Suzanne who’s a few years old. Suzanne introduces Evie to Mitch and others at a commune on a nearby ranch. He is meant to be charismatic and profound, but it’s Suzanne that Evie is drawn to. She ingratiates herself into life at the ranch to be with Suzanne. Her interest is occasionally reciprocated by the older girl.

Cline imbues Evie with all the pathos associated with a young teenager. Her obsession with Suzanne is puzzling: is it sexual or is it her need for an involved maternal figure?

When Evie returns to the ranch after a brief absence, its allure has begun to fade. She can sense there’s an itch to scratch, but isn’t sure of its source. It’s  at this point that a few inconsistencies surface in the narrative.

Years later, reflecting on that summer, Evie wonders what kept her from participating in the violence carried out by Suzanne and others under Mitch’s directive. If she hadn’t been told to leave, would she/could she have acted as they did? This raises the question of how we think we might respond in certain situations and how we actually do.

The Girls
Three-and-a-half Bookmarks
Random House, 2016
455 pages

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One response to “Caught up in the Hype

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  1. “…how we think we might respond in certain situations and how we actually do” is an interesting topic.

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