This book takes place in the late 1960s, around the summer of love. I wasn’t around then, so I’m sure that a lot of my ideas of that time are influenced by popular culture. This isn’t one of those books that glamorizes that era, but seems to exist solely in between the two worlds of structured society and drug-saturated counterculture.
The protagonist is Evie, a girl that would be described as “fourteen going on thirty.” Evie is a bit of an outsider in her own life, caught in between her divorcing parents and their plans for her. She has one good friend whose brother she has a crush on, and eventually falls out with that friend. At loose ends, Evie spends some time hanging out in the park where she sees a group of girls who just seem to have “it” – that effortless coolness and glamour of older teenage girls. Evie desperately is trying to find herself, to figure out who she is and to get people to notice her. Evie wants nothing more than to feel like she belongs somewhere.
Evie ends up amongst that giant group of girls, following them back to the ranch where they live with this cult leader who is supposed to be a Manson-like figure. It’s interesting because while the other girls seem to be in his thrall, Evie is most interested in Suzanne, one of his older followers. The author hints at Evie maybe being a lesbian, or at the very least, sexually interested in Suzanne. Hanging out with the cult gives her a purpose and a place that her normal life doesn’t afford her.
I felt like this book was particularly riveting because you can tell the plot is leading up to some horrific act that the cult commits, and it is framed with Evie in our modern age, talking about having a sort of itinerant life of not really feeling like she has fit in or made much of her life. Even now, Evie is still longing for a connection, and to be recognized by others. As a grown-ass woman, I can relate to her as a teenager, and remember clearly feeling the similarly at fourteen, that I was in a hurry to grow up and find my place. Thankfully, I didn’t have to join a cult to do it.