The Secret History via Megan Abbott for a YA audience, The Furies is about teengirl rage and the revenge it engenders; a story of “…the brutal power of female friendship, of those secrets women share between themselves, in those moments men are too blind to see.”
female rage novels are, if you will permit me, all the rage right now, and, being a fan of ‘girls gone wild’ stories, i could not be happier. this one is dark and damaged and gritty and sharp, and it’s what i had hoped the other book i read with the same title would be (incidentally, i have also read two books called fury [one and two], so you can see i have a type.)
violet is a sixteen-year-old girl from a shabby seaside town who has miraculously survived a car accident that killed her father and her younger sister. although she grew up far from wealthy, with the insurance money from the accident, violet is able to attend an elite girls’ school nearby, and reluctantly takes the opportunity to start over where no one knows anything about her.
her mother has been reduced to a shadow in her grief, leaving violet completely unmoored, and she soon finds herself unexpectedly absorbed into a tight-knit foursome, whose previous fourth member mysteriously vanished several months earlier, a girl who, eerily enough, very strongly resembled violet.
it starts off predictably enough for this kind of dark coming-of-age story; demonstrating the transformative power of adolescent female friendships as violet alters herself to the tone of the group. under the particular influence of robin, the missing girl’s former bestie, she starts smoking, drinking, taking pills, and going to college parties with college boys. robin even renames her, calling her “vivi,” which violet takes as a sign of an especial favor she strives to live up to.
I stumbled along beside her, speechless and blind, as she chattered on about classes, homework she refused to do (“on principle,” she said, not explaining what, exactly, the principle was) and girls she hated, their crimes seeming to me like instructions, things I would no longer say or do.
and then it goes into The Secret History territory, when violet is invited to attend the exclusive lessons the clique have been studying, held in the clock tower under the guidance of annabel, their charismatic art teacher, where they learn about the school’s less-publicized history of secret societies led by powerful women with occult leanings, some of whom were burned as witches; lessons of sisterhood and empowerment, examining the latent fear of women permeating classical literature and art.
“…unsupervised, private female friendships? Oh no. Women, alone together, without the supervision of men, almost always caused disaster in their households, and the wider community, these freedoms resulting in madness, anger, sexual desire, or jealousy resulting in death. Women are not to be left alone, together, or tragedy will surely follow.”
and then things start to get dangerous.
it’s an excellent debut and a strong contribution to the recent batch of rage-lit (Sadie, The Female of the Species, Ninth House, etc) the prose is occasionally a little overdressed, but there are moments of such anthemic potency, it is easily forgiven.
I suppose there are moments, best (or at least most commonly) experienced in the heady years of adolescence, when a girl decides who—or what—she is going to be.
Girls who chase boys, who twirl their hair and walk through clouds of chain-store perfume, learning their allure. Girls who like books, who revel in their solitude, and lonely girls who don’t; girls who eat, and girls who don’t. Girls with piercings, tattoos, scars. Angry girls, who bare their teeth and scratch at their arms. Unironic boy-band pink-clad girls, who scream and wail and live in every breath. Girls who read Vogue and spend their Saturdays with jealous hands on clothes their allowances won’t afford. Girls who long to be mothers, and their own mothers who long for their youth. Art girls. Science girls. Girls who’ll make it out alive. Girls who won’t.
And then, there are the invisible girls: the ones nobody thinks to be afraid of. The girls who hide in plain sight, flirting and giggling; girls for whom sugar and spice is a mask. Girls who spark matches and spill battery acid on skin. Girls for whom the rules do not apply.
go on, girls—go wild.
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my very first GR win of 2019!! i am so excited!! thank you, gods of the GR giveaways!