The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
- Published October 8th, 2019
- Tags: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Feminism, Violence
- Format: Physical Book, ARC
- Pages: 416
| Synopsis From the Publisher |
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.
| Book Review |
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
– Content –
The violence is off the chain! -> I don’t know quite what I was expecting when I opened this book up, but I wasn’t expecting the amount of violence it offered (for a YA novel). It’s reminiscent of the violence included in The Hunger Games. There are people in this book who actually skin other people, so if you’re squeamish, you might want to pass on this one. One of the books it’s compared to is The Lord of the Flies but with girls, so you can expect a fair amount of girl-on-girl violence as well.
Ostracizing Triggers -> I did not expect to feel so triggered by girls being ostracized. I mean, it really bothered me. There’s a lot of clique behavior from the get-go, a lot of bullying of one particular girl, plus the main character, but eventually there’s a straight up isolation of the main character and it’s quite dark and difficult to read.
Feminist Soap Box -> I know this book is being marketed as a Handmaid’s Tale for YA, and I did see some key points that support that. There were several moments, though, where it felt like Liggett was getting up on a soap box and proclaiming things that took me out of the story narrative. I also felt like the story didn’t quite match up with the progressive narrative it’s supposedly selling. I can’t really go into too much detail here, because there are spoilers involved. Suffice it to say that I don’t really find this book that much different than your typical YA dystopian (romance and all).
What year is it!?! -> I kept trying to figure out what time period this book is aiming for, or even if it’s supposed to be some version of Earth as we know it. There are several references to Eve, the Bible, vaccinations, etc that make me feel like this is some future America sans-technology. Like, it feels like it’s the 1700s, but not really, because it’s an isolated colony of people. There are no phones, no cars, no electric lights. I really felt like the world building wasn’t up to snuff. It dumps you into a community and gives you tid bits, but not enough to really place you anywhere, which irked me the whole time I was reading this book.
– Literary Value-
A slightly elevated YA novel -> I definitely was drawn into the world of The Grace Year right away. Liggett definitely sets the scene and her grasp of the English language is definitely commendable. The story flows pretty well and the plot itself works. For me, though, there were times where I found the language to be a bit too flowery and unnecessarily poetic, especially compared to the story itself, which wasn’t really wow-ing me.
I also felt like Liggett didn’t create a main character that is likeable enough to hold up the story she’s crafted. Tierney definitely got on my nerves at times, mostly because she is so proud, so much better than others, but believes she’s the opposite. She often makes selfish decisions that made me not trust her or want her to succeed. This made it difficult for me to enjoy the story overall.
Also, I felt like the first half of the book was significantly better than the latter half. I can’t go into too much detail here, but at a certain point, I really checked out of the story because it became much too cliched. I thought that Liggett was breaking new ground with this book, but then she completely unravels it in the second half of the book. It really disappointed me and I wish the book were different than the result.
– Entertainment Factor –
If you’re into survival dystopian scenarios, look no further -> This book has it’s highs and lows, but it’s an overall fast-paced story with lots of twists and turns. While it takes a few chapters to get rolling, once it’s rolling, it really picks up the pace.
I found the first part of the Grace Year to be a fascinating study of humanity. There is a lot of girl-girl interaction that doesn’t involve romantic/male discussion, which is rare for a YA book. While there is a romance element to this book, most of that is secondary to the situation of the Grace Year girls. Once they’re isolated and trying to survive, and all the “mysteries” of the Year are beginning to be uncovered, I was definitely hooked.
The only things that took me out of my enjoyment of the story were the romance element, once it started, and the moments of overly flowery, poetic inner monologues that Tierney goes into. Because I didn’t much care for her character, she made it a bit difficult for me to enjoy much of the story, but it might be more my own personal taste that made me dislike her, and other readers might not feel this way, and so enjoy the book more thoroughly.
– Cover Art –
I’m not too fond of this cover. I don’t really like the pink-on-pink, nor do I care for the interweaving between the girl image and the font. I also don’t really care for the flower overlay. I feel like it could have been done better. I get why it’s there, because flowers are a really important element to the story. I also get whey the hair ribbon is emphasized and that it’s dripping blood.
I just don’t really care for the rendering at all. I’m also not sure if the girl is supposed to be Tierney or not. I don’t really like seeing actual faces on covers, so there’s that.
Overall, I just feel like it’s not my taste. It is eye-catching, though, I will give it that.
| My Rating |
Ok, But Not My Cup of Tea
This book is definitely not your average YA dystopian. For one thing, there’s a strong female presence for a majority of the book, and the author makes a pretty clear point of the importance of women need to support women, which I did like. What I did not like was the addition of a romantic cliche that, for me, cheapened a lot of the book’s message. It’s a little like being promised a strong, feminist power story, but then being given happily-ever-after romantic drama. I didn’t care for Tierney, the main character, and much of the book relies on her being likable, so that also hindered my overall enjoyment of this book.
Would I recommend this book?
Yes, I would recommend this book. I think it has qualities that make it interesting unique to other YA stories and it will certainly appeal to a wide audience. Even though it has a “feminist” agenda, ultimately it’s a dystopian survival story that reminiscent of The Hunger Games, so it definitely has a strong appeal.
Thoughts & Thanks
Thank you so much for reading this post. I would love to hear your thoughts on this book if you have read it or even if you haven’t! If you’re considering reading it, let me know what you think, once you do!