It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
I have to start off by saying that Wilder Girls was definitely not what I expected it to be. Which is hard for me to explain, as I’m not fully sure what I expected. What I got was a government conspiracy based plot following a group of girls who are just trying to survive, and the bonds they form with each other whilst doing so.
The girls at Raxter have changed since the Tox it. Hetty, our main character, has something growing under her eye, causing her to only have one working one. Her best friend Byatt has a second spine. Reese, the third in their group, has a silver scaled hand. There is a lot of body horror throughout the book and some of it did make me feel a bit squeamish – it’s a gritty, dark book, and you can feel the atmosphere misting off the pages, almost as if you can smell the damp undergrowth of Raxter Island.
The three girls, as well as other girls in the school who have survived and a couple of teachers, have lived isolated with the Tox for a year with the promise that the government is working on a cure – all they have to do is survive, which is easier said than done when they don’t know who the Tox will strike next and what price it will exact from them this time. After living as well as they could, Hetty eventually starts to notice odd things happening around the island – girls are going missing, precious supplies are being dumped into the ocean rather than taken back to the school where girls are starving and fighting for the last scraps of food, and the people she thought she could trust are hiding something. When Byatt becomes the next girl to disappear following a flare up, Hetty knows she’ll do anything to find her, even if it means going against life at Raxter as she knows it and betraying the rest of the school. The characters in this book are just so full of need and longing for life, you truly can feel it and it makes their pain and emotion just that more poignant.
The world building was incredible, and as I said, it was easy to feel as though I was on Raxter island whilst reading. Even looking back, it now feels as though it’s a place I’ve been to, rather than a place I’ve read about. The writing style is complex and beautiful without being too floral or over the top with info dumps.
Wilder Girls is left quite open ended, and I would like to have seen what happens next – however, I do feel as though the ending suited the rest of the story.