Title: Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Two-sentence summary: Hetty’s boarding school is put under quarantine after an infection called the Tox strikes. It kills the teachers one by one, it turns the woods into a dark and dangerous place, and it transforms the girls into something monstrous.
Portrayal of LGBTQ issues: A lot of promos I saw for this book pitched it as a sapphic take on Lord of the Flies. I would say that’s a fair description. The setting is a girl’s boarding school and features several LGBT characters. Though if you’re looking for a happy queer rom-com, this definitely isn’t it.
What I liked: I’ll be up-front with you about this one: horror fiction is not my thing. I can count on my fingers how many horror movies I’ve enjoyed, and that list would literally just be Pan’s Labyrinth and, like, What We Do in the Shadows because I generally don’t like horror.
However, I recognize that this is a genre preference and try not to let my reviews for queer horror reflect that. That being said, this is a well-written novel. If you love horror stories with feminist themes a la The Yellow Wallpaper, this is definitely one to check out. It has a dark, atmospheric aesthetic and involves just as much psychological horror as it does jump scares.
And this book is truly scary. The girls don’t know what’s causing the toxin – whether it’s a disease, poison, or radiation – but it’s almost better for those infected to die rather than stay alive. Their bodies and minds change in ways that are both unsettling and somewhat allegorical. I thought this would be a zombie apocalypse book when I first picked it up, but it’s much more devastating and complex than that.
“We don’t get to choose what hurts us.”
Recommended: For readers who are looking for queer horror, this is definitely one to check out. It’s got lush descriptions. It’s got high stakes that make your heart pound. And it’s got a compelling romance.
Note: I was given an ARC in exchange for a fair review.