Somehow I ended up reading three dystopian novels in a row. Maybe not the best choice during an actual pandemic.
Wilder Girls is set in an all-girls boarding school on an isolated island off the coast of Maine. About a year and a half before the novel starts, something… happened. A sort of disease that was probably already present on the island suddenly made an evolutionary jump from two species (an iris and a crab) to everything else, including people. The disease, which they call the Tox, changes whatever it infects, and unlike with the iris and crab, it changes people in different ways. Some people die right away, but other people get some really shitty mutant powers. One girl, Reese, has glowing hair and a weird scaly hand. Byatt has a second spine. Heddy has something growing in one of her eyes and it has sealed shut. Another girl has a second heartbeat. Another has constant bruising. The whole island is in quarantine, and the girls are supposed to stay in the fenced-in school grounds. Breaking the quarantine would be bad, even though they are supposedly the only ones on the island. The only ones who can leave are the ones on “boat shift” who walk a few miles to the pier on the other side of the island to get a food and supply drop. But there’s never enough food, and some of it has already gone bad, and there is no outside communication and there’s no heat, and everything sucks.
Heddy is our first narrator, and at first I thought the whole book was going to be from her perspective. She’s a bit naive, and has complete faith and trust in her best friend Byatt. The two have another friend in Reese, but it’s HeddyandByatt and Reese. Reese comes across as a bit standoff-ish, and some of the other girls are scared of her. Heddy is a bit obsessed with Byatt, and when Byatt goes missing, Heddy is determined to find her at all costs, including breaking the quarantine, because she’s dumb. Byatt was supposed to be in the infirmary, but she’s not, so the most logical explanation is that she’s dead. But Heddy can’t accept that, so she convinces Reese that they need to go find her. The situation for everyone on the island is bad, but it’s this decision that makes everything go to shit.
Then, we switch to Byatt’s point of view. And it turns out, Byatt is a selfish bitch! I think Reese knew this, but Heddy was so taken in that she was blind to all of Byatt’s faults. I feel bad for Reese. She’s in a bad situation, but she’s making the best of it. She almost gets what she wants, but then it’s pulled away from her, twice! Poor Reese.
Things go to shit fairly quickly, and I was going along with it, but I’m not a fan of the ending. There’s no real resolution. There were parts in the book that were very impactful, but then you get no explanations or closure. I mean, you get hints of possible explanations, but nothing really for certain. If there were, maybe I would have felt differently about the book.