The Grace Year
By Kim Liggett
Published October 8, 2019 by Wednesday Books
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.
The Grace Year is getting a lot of hype because it’s already been optioned for a film. In this case, the hype is well deserved. It’s a gripping, creepy, devastating book.
In Garner County, the patriarchy reigns supreme. Although women outnumber men, it’s men who have all power. Women can be wives or workers (in approved professions) once they reach their teen years. Women who don’t fit the mold or have been punished for transgressions against the social order are banished to the outskirts, where they become prostitutes.
Every year, all of the 16-year-old girls in the county are sent away to remote location in the wild for a full year. It’s believed that teenage girls have magic that needs to be expunged from them, and this year in the wild, know as the Grace Year, is supposed to do this. The girls are told nothing about what will happen during that year, but they know that not everyone survives the year. Oh, and there are poachers who hunt the girls, kill them, and sell their body parts.
This book was fantastic. I tore through it. It’s a little bit of The Handmaid’s Tale, Lord of the Flies, and The Hunger Games, with a whiff of the Salem witch trials thrown in. I won’t say much about the plot because I think it’s best for the reader to go into the story knowing as little as the girls do when they begin their Grace Year.
This book is brutal, but then so is the patriarchy. The book does really well at showing how patriarchy pits women against each other, and how it can’t survive without women buying into the system. The heroine Tierney is a great character. She’s not perfect, but she’s strong and she recognizes that things are seriously messed up in the county.
“…I only feel tired. Tired of hating each other. Tired of feeling small. Tired of being used. Tired of men deciding our fate, and for what?”
Read this book and prepare to feel a lot of rage.
I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.