There's something about a boarding school that intensify the creep factor of any story. The seclusion, old buildings, grounds filled with woods and mysterious nooks and crannies. With more students than adults, and many of those adults mysterious themselves, the boarding school provides endless potential for drama and secretive behavior. Now, put that boarding school on an island off the New England coast, prohibit the use of cell phones, bring in the military and add in a mysterious illness that can cause deformities and you have yourself one creepy YA thriller.
The Tox, as it's known to the students at Raxter School for Girls, came on suddenly and ravaged every living being it touched. Animals mutated and developed aggressive and deadly behaviors. Adults died quickly and painfully. The girls, they changed. Some grew extra spines, developed scales, lost limbs and eyes. Horrible fevers, bloody sores, and horrific flare ups that cause pain and suffering. No one knows what caused it or how to cure it. Placed under quarantine by the military and cut off from the rest of the world, the girls that have survived so far have only their headmistress and one lone teacher to help guide them. But not everyone seems to be doing their best to help. Lack of food, medicine, and constant boredom can only lead to problems and the girls have enough of those already. When a group of friends loses on of their own to the illness, it's up to the remaining two to bring her home and find out what is really happening to them.
Gripping and terrifying, Wilder Girls is a dramatic look at the consequences of well meaning actions that can backfire spectacularly. The characters are complex-many have so many secrets it's a struggle to know the true person. Why are they at Raxter? Are they troubled? Brilliant? Privileged? Cliques amongst the girls are amplified after the Tox and survival means fighting for each every morsel of food and anything that can keep you warm. The Raxter girls have a multitude of issues thrown at them-disease, hormones, survival, coming of age, loneliness, and the uncertainty of the adults around them. It's a brutal look at what it takes to survive and protect your own.
The best part of Wilder Girls? It's Rory Power's debut novel. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.