” It is a top ten book of the year for sure and maybe the best YA novel this year. If you like The Handmaid’s Tale and Vox, this book is for you.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Billed as a feminist Lord of The Flies with shades of the Handmaids Tale, The Grace Year by Kim Liggett is a much anticipated YA release and I was delighted to get my hands on an advance copy to review.
The book tells the story of a young woman, Tierney, who is about to embark on her Grace Year, the year after reaching puberty, when all the young women of the town are sent to a remote location to rid themselves of their “magic” so that they will become suitable wife material, submissive to their husbands and dedicated to bearing and raising children, The setting of this book is left deliberately vague, we are given no indication of time or place, but while I did notice this, it did not bother me or hinder my enjoyment of the book, in fact if anything it lent it a universal feel, like it could be anywhere.
While many of the young women are eager to marry and start their families, particularly if their prospective spouse is particularly handsome or high up in the towns hierarchy, this has never been Tierney’s dream. As one of several sisters, she has grown up as something of a tomboy, and her father’s favourite, given much more freedom than most girls and taught how to fish and hunt and about nature, she has a good chance of doing more than some girls on the Grace Year, and actually surviving.
As we learn more about the practice, it becomes apparent that the year is brutal, and that some will come back vastly changed while others will not come back at all, and not just due to illness. Poachers will hunt the girls if they try to leave their camp, and the black market value of the girls and even their body parts is high.
The majority of the book tells the story of Tierney’s time in isolation with the other girls, and in true Mean Girls fashion, a hierarchy soon evolves. As the girls spend more time together they start to experience strange happenings which they put down to their magic, the magic they must purge themselves of before returning home. When a conflict sees Tierney exiled from the camp she must risk the dangerous poachers, but it also helps her to understand more about what is really happening in the camp, and how she can change it.
When help comes from an unexpected source, she begins to believe that she may survive the Grace Year after all Overall I really enjoyed this book, I loved the concept, and did not mind that there were shades of other books in the story, this felt new enough for me to overlook the influences.
Tierney was a good character, and I enjoyed following her as the story unfolded, though I wish some of the other characters had been just a little better fleshed out. The pacing is somewhat mixed, the book starts strong but definitely lags in the middle, in the section where Tierney leaves the camp and until she makes it back inside, then it picks up again and finishes strong.
The world building was good, which sounds a little counter intuitive since we don’t have a definitive setting, but I found the way the society was set up to be fascinating, and I would love to know more about how it reached the point at which we find it. There is a interesting air of mystery about what the Grace Year actually entails, the girls themselves have heard only snippets of rumors, and the women who come back never speak about their experiences, so wondering about what was really going on kept my interest in the book, even in the slower part.
I really loved the idea of women working together, and how rebellion can occur in the smallest and most unexpected ways, but I cannot say more without spoiling the book for other readers. I will add a note of caution, this book is quite graphic at times in its descriptions of violence and gruesome injuries, so that may be something to bear in mind for readers planning to pick it up. However it is never gratuitous and fells like it fits the story the author is telling. My only other minor complaint is that on a couple of occasions Tierney has to rely on a man to save her, and that, together with the resulting romance elements felt just a little jarring and out of place but not enough to spoil the book.
As for the ending, well it was simply perfect, but to know just why it was so good, you’ll have to read the book.
Added 23rd October 2019