Emma Cline’s ’13 The Girls Named Top 2016 Book by Numerous Publications

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The Girls, a debut novel by Writing Program alumna Emma Cline ’13, was a topic of much discussion in the literary world long before it even hit bookstores. When it finally did earlier this year, readers and reviewers seemed to agree that the novel, which follows 14-year-old protagonist Evie Boyd as she falls under the spell of Manson-like cult leader, had earned the hype surrounding it. Now, the book’s literary value—and Cline’s reputation as emerging writer of note—have been solidified by the appearance of The Girls on no fewer than five lists of the best books of the year.

Esquire, which named it one of the year’s 25 best books, said, “You might expect a novel about a young girl who joins a Manson-like cult in the summer of 1969 to be lurid, violent, and sensational. But the most surprising and rewarding trait about The Girls is the author's wonderful restraint.”
The Financial Times, in its citation of The Girls, called the book “compulsively readable” and “a vivid examination of adolescence in 1960s America.” (FT also cited Writing Program faculty member Paul Beatty’s Booker Prize–winning novel The Sellout, as one of the best books of the year.)

Harper’s Bazaar also honored The Girls, writing that the novel “deserves its place as one of the year’s best books if for no other reason than because after the final page turn, its twisted yet penetrative tale will continue to haunt you well in 2017 and beyond.” Paste magazine, which named The Girls one of the 16 best fiction books of the year, applauded the way Cline “gradually traps you in Evie’s head, revealing how easy it is to lose your grasp on reality when under the influence of extraordinarily intense relationships.” And Entertainment Weekly, which named the novel one of the 20 best books of the year, wrote that, for all the book’s attention to cult dynamics and period trappings, “it’s Cline’s hothouse evocation of girlhood that stays.”

The Girls was also cited by Zoë Heller, a New York Times Book Review contributor (and former Writing Program adjunct), as one of her favorite books of the year, in a poll of Bookends columnists. She wrote, “Cline writes lovely, noticing sentences, and her story about the charismatic power of an evil cult leader turned out to be a not altogether inappropriate fable for 2016.”

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