Title: The Grace Year
Author: Kim Liggett
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Published On: October 8, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Synopsis: Survive the year.
No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.
In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.
Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.
With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.
(I was provided an advance copy from the publisher, Wednesday Books, through Netgalley.)
The Grace Year is already receiving a lot of buzz. Touted as a mix between The Handmaid’s Tale, Lord of the Flies, and The Hunger Games, it was quickly snatched up by Universal and Elizabeth Banks to be made into a film. I didn’t even read all of the synopsis before I hit request on Netgalley. But even if I’d read all the way to the end of the synopsis, it wouldn’t have helped much. The synopsis barely scratches the surface, which I’m sure is the intention. And while it does have threads of those three great novels previously mentioned woven throughout, it also has some problematic issues that I found hard to ignore.
The first half of this one was slow for me, and I felt confused for most of that half. We jump right into the story, but without much explanation as to why things are the way they are in this town. And ambiguity can be good in a story, when it’s done correctly, like in the aforementioned, The Handmaid’s Tale. But here, there are already too many other mysterious issues piled on top.
There is a character introduced about halfway through that I actually think is a well-rounded and engaging character, but by the end, only seems to serve one purpose, which makes me sad. Unless there’s a sequel and something changes. Which is always entirely possible–especially with the ending the way it is. (Which I still haven’t decided if I love or hate.) Like I said, too much ambiguity for me.
But let me talk about the pros: The writing is superb, and I highlighted many beautiful lines. I love how flowers and their meanings are woven throughout, even becoming clues at times. And I love how the main character consistently embodies strength and bravery.
If it’s done well–and maybe some plot points are tweaked–The Grace Year may make a better film than a book. Which is very rare.