Fleur Beale, eat your heart out, cause this book leaves I am not Esther for dead! Also the story of a young woman stuck in a religious cult she does not believe in, this book explores the complicated nature of these communities and how hard it is for people to get out once they’re in. The central character, Moonbeam, narrates the tale, and we learn pretty quickly that there’s been some sort of fire resulting in the death of most of her fellow residents; the only survivors are a group of children, now living in a psychiatric facility. The story is totally gripping, with non-stop tension as the author carefully reveals Moonbeam’s story and her role in the cult’s ultimate destruction. An awesome, sleep-preventing read!
The Girls is described by The New Yorker magazine as, “a song of innocence and experience…Finely intelligent, often superbly written, with flashingly brilliant sentences.” This was enough of a sales pitch for me and I immediately went and picked up a copy from the library. The reviewers weren’t kidding. It’s a dark and brooding novel, one that embodies the slow, sticky feeling of summer in which the story takes place. It follows a girl called Evie who becomes seduced by a group of free floating girls she sees around her home town. These girls live in a commune led by a character based on Charles Manson. In fact, the whole thing is a fictional take on that murderous cult. I had limited knowledge of Manson before reading the book, which perhaps was an advantage, and led me to some obsessively googling when I’d finished. It’s definitely a book for young readers looking for a challenge, but those who have read it have found it brilliant.
I’m in two minds about this book. On the one hand, the story is completely fascinating, but on the other, I found the writing pretty lacking. However, most students who read this book absolutely love it, so perhaps I’m being too picky! Based on the real NZ community Gloriavale (can we call it a cult? I suppose we probably should), this book is about a young girl whose mum was raised in a really religious sect but broke away as a teenager and became pregnant. The mum can’t cope anymore and calls the family to take Kirby back to the community. They promptly change Kirby’s name to Esther and begin to indoctrinate her into their ways (yeah, it’s not great when she gets totally brainwashed). Given it’s based on a real place, the story is pretty intriguing. It’s a really easy read and if you enjoy it, there are a couple of other books in the series you can sink yourself into.