Author: Cat Clarke
Overall rating: 4.5/5
Great for: fans of Megan Abbott, Robin Talley, and Robin Wasserman.
Themes: young adult, coming-of-age, contemporary, thriller and mystery.
Review: It was only last year that I discovered my love for the dark contemporary genre, and I have been devouring everything that sells itself as such, since then. It’s become hard to find a book that lives up to my firm favourites, Robin Wasserman’s ‘Girls on Fire’, and Megan Abbott’s… well, everything!
‘Girlhood’ by Cat Clarke may have just sneaked onto my list of favourites, however, with its mysterious and thrilling elements that vied for space amongst the teen-girl drama and angst.
Harper has worked hard to remove herself from the past that haunts her, installing herself in remote Duncraggen boarding school. Here, life is fewer hockey sticks and ginger beer, and more midnight sneak-outs and, well, regular beer. She becomes an integral part of a small friendship group and her past remains firmly tucked away in the most shadowed corners of her mind. That is until new girl Kirsty arrives.
Something about the new arrival shakes Harper and reminds her of what she has tried to forget. Kirsty threatens to break the group’s tenuous grasp on each other, whether she knows it or not, and Harper is the first one to feel the reverberations of this possibility. With the return of the past, the present tension, and the future uncertainty, Harper must decide where her loyalty lies and which of her secrets she can allow to remain buried.
The boarding school setting denoted much of the ensuing angst, and the close proximity of the friendship group also provided a pivot in which the plot revolved around. It is precisely why I appreciate books in this sort of secluded setting. There is a pervading eeriness about the isolation of the characters and it is the perfect environ for a whirlwind of negativity and emotion to expand and destroy all around it.
This book smacks of teen rebellion! There is something utterly satisfying about reading characters revelling in doing what they are not supposed to be doing. And much of this book dealt with the emerging emotions that characterise the character’s age. These combined made the focus on the inner-workings on the close-knit group take a larger narrative focus than its thriller-esque counterparts. Each worked side-by-side, however, to bring this plot to its mysterious culmination!
The pervading darkness of the book is what sucked me in and made this a one-sitting book. The character’s internal struggles as well as their external drama all combined to make this a solid and thrilling new heavy-hitter in the genre and made me a new follower, eager to discover more of Clarke’s brilliance.