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Why ‘The Girls’ by Emma Cline is so Important to me 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

Growing up, I always struggled with reading. Getting through a book felt like a daunting task and it would take me hours just to get through a chapter. Reading was never recreational; it was for school or because my parents wanted me to “stretch my reading muscles” and strive to improve. I never felt a connection to books, and for a long time, I truly saw them as a sign of my inadequacies. I believed I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to be an avid reader. 

As I grew older, I began to adore television and movies. I felt connected to on-screen media in a way I never connected with print media. Now, as a film major in my fourth year, I still carry some of those feelings. I feel comfortable and confident analyzing movies in a way I have never felt towards books.

However, I still feel a sense of insecurity when it comes to reading. I don’t always feel like I have the authority to share my thoughts about books or have the knowledge to come to meaningful conclusions about a book. 

Despite my complicated relationship with reading, I have challenged myself to incorporate books into my life. I have racks of half-read novels or books I read over months. However, Sally Rooney sparked my reading journey: I read Normal People in a mere few days, which was unheard of for me. From there, I realized that a good book can be pivotal, and even if reading is hard for me, a compelling story is worth it. 

The Girls by Emma Cline is one of those books that is just worth it for me. I could not put it down. The Girls is a fictionalized account of the Manson Murders. This story is set in 1969 and follows the girlhood story of 14-year-old Evie Boyd. Feeling isolated and insecure, Evie finds herself searching for community and validation. She spends the summer on a ranch with a group of older girls, who become engaged in violent, cult-like activities. While this story may be an action-packed thriller, I’m more drawn to its soft elements. 

I prefer a character-driven story to a plot-driven one, and while this book delivers in both areas, it is Evie’s unique character that has me raving. Evie is feeling all the sh*tty things that a fourteen-year-old girl feels. She has deemed herself as unlovable and unworthy. She isolates herself from her mother and abandons her relationship with her best friend. She uses all her experiences as proof that she is not good enough; therefore, she is on the constant prowl for validation.

I felt so understood by Evie’s character. The early days as a teenage girl are hard. Insecurity is introduced quickly and intensely. There is an ever-present need to be good enough and a subsequent feeling that it is impossible. That feeling of being so vulnerable to the wants of others. The feeling that you would do anything to get on the inside to avoid being alone. As the story progresses, Evie finds her targets: the girls she will idolize. The ones who she believes encapsulate what it is to be cool. She is entirely at their disposal and will do whatever it takes to be wanted by them. However, she repeatedly experiences the same sunken sadness whenever she feels like an outsider. 

At its core, the story is about hunting for love, searching for it desperately, and being disappointed when you need it most. 

“… Poor Girls. The world flattens them on the promise of love. How badly they need it, and how little most of them will ever get. The treacled pop songs, the dresses described in the catalogs with words like ‘sunset’ and ‘Paris.’  Then the dreams are taken away with such violent force; the hand wrenching the buttons on the jeans, nobody looking at the man shouting at his girlfriend on the bus”

Cline, 2013

I had never read a story of girlhood so honest. No matter how comfortable you are with reading, I encourage anyone to pick up The Girls. It may break your reading strike like it did mine. 

Maya Gelfand

Queen's U '24

Maya Gelfand is a fourth year film and media student at Queens University.