The Grace Yearby Published 08 Oct 2019
|The Grace Year.pdf|
A speculative thriller in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power. Optioned by Universal and Elizabeth Banks to be a major motion picture!
“A visceral, darkly haunting fever dream of a novel and an absolute page-turner. Liggett’s deeply suspenseful book brilliantly explores the high cost of a misogynistic world that denies women power and does it with a heart-in-your-throat, action-driven story that’s equal parts horror-laden fairy tale, survival story, romance, and resistance manifesto. I couldn’t stop reading.” – Libba Bray, New York Times bestselling author
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 Reviews
this book loves me
but i only consider it a really good friend.
i had been looking forward to reading this like crazy, but i didn't love it as much as everybuddy else, and that makes my readerheart sad.
the premise sounded outstanding: speculative feminist fiction featuring a hyper-patriarchal community in which the fear of female sexuality is so profound that sixteen-year-old girls are rounded up and exiled for a year in an outlying compound; isolated from good decent folk while the potency of their sexual awakening is released harmlessly into the wilderness so they can then return purified, ready for the duties of marriage IF they have been chosen by an unmarried man, or for the working world if they have not. no one who has not gone through the ordeal themselves knows what *actually* transpires during the grace year—speaking of it is forbidden, but many girls die or do not return, giving even more strength to the belief in the seeeeecret magical power of sexy teengirls.
through the eyes of reluctant and rebellious tierney james, we will learn all about what goes on behind those closed gates, when girls who have never been allowed freedom, agency, or any control over their lives whatsoever are thrown together and forced to survive a whole year without supervision or intervention, with uncivilized ‘poachers’ ready to kill them if they stray into the woods, all while they are—let us not forget—being relentlessly purged of their sexual toxins; exposed to the highly-concentrated outpourings of so much dangerous female magic.
spoiler alert: contrary to what we all know about what happens when teengirls are left to their own devices, there are zero sexxy pillow fights.
i loved about 3/4 of this book. it started out with great promise, intensifying suspense, mysterious details—building the world of this sexually repressed, misogynistic community where troublesome wives can be gotten rid of—in that old public execution-y way—for dubious reasons, all on a man’s say-so, thus freeing up his bed for some sweet tender teenbride, where marriage is the only salvation or protection for women (unless—of course—you become troublesome), where women can be banished for minor infractions, or for the infractions of their sisters, fostering a climate of fear and competitive viciousness as social survival mechanism, pitting women against each other, and now let's toss a couple dozen adolescent girls who have been told they have magical powers into close, unmonitored, quarters and see what happens!
bring on survival of the cruelest.
all of this was great—the character dynamics were as fierce as i’d expected, the spectrum of emerging personality traits allowed to develop in this self-governed community felt authentic, the psychological stress and escalating tension was well-handled and that reveal was top-notch. it reminded me of two other books that would spoil this book if i named them here and would spoil THOSE books if i put them in spoiler tags, so i’ll just appreciate it on my own. but if you want some name-droppy readalikes, this is definitely Lord of the Flies meets The Handmaid's Tale meets The Crucible.
around the 3/4 mark, however, it lost me a bit. there was a big chunk of story that revisited already-covered ground without contributing anything new, there was a completely perfunctory love story; one with necessary dramatic payoff, sure, but its development was bland, and the story seemed to lose its way. i thought the ending was strong, if a little on-the-nose, and my overall post-read impression is favorable, but that big disappointing chunk lost momentum for me, and it was hard to recover.
also, speaking as someone who has never referred to a map in a book that included them, for the first time ever i really could have used one. it was hard for me to picture this location, to understand where the safe places were w/r/t the compound, and how locations were...arranged. i read this as an arc, and it’s possible the finished book will provide one for visualizationally-challenged folks like me, but i struggled a little.
i liked it more than i didn’t, but some of it falls apart under scrutiny. so, do not scrutinize! take it as allegory, as symbolism, read chelsea and tatiana’s excellent reviews, and i will round up my 3 1/2 stars because i did like so much of it.
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Target will be offering a limited run, signed by the author, hardcover book club edition and you can pre-order it HERE!
"I have to remind myself -the dresses, the red ribbons, the veils, the ceremonies- they're all just distractions to keep our minds off the real issue at hand. The grace year.
My chin begins to quiver when I think of the year ahead, the unknown, but I plaster on a vacant smile, as if I'm happy to play my part, so I might return and marry and breed and die. But not all of us will make it home...not in one piece."
Hello, good evening, and let me introduce you to my favorite book of 2019, The Grace Year. I know it sounds ridiculous to be picking a favorite book when half of the year hasn't even passed us by, but that's how sure I am that nothing else will even come close to measuring against what this book did to me-how it made me feel-and for how it will affect my thoughts and behavior long term. This book was horrifying and beautiful, weighty yet buoyant, and I will never be the same again after experiencing what was written in these pages. I finished the story last night, but I couldn't shake what I'd read, even in my dreaming state, and I don't think I'll be able to get a good night's sleep again until I work through this review, so here goes nothing.
"As the gate closes on the guards troubled faces, it's clear they truly believe we're loathsome creatures that need to be hidden away for safekeeping, for our own good, to exorcise the demons lurking inside of us, but even in this cursed place, anger, fear, and resentment boiling inside of me, I still don't feel magical. I still don't feel powerful. I feel forsaken."
While the county that The Grace Year takes place in is a dystopian type setting, it is certainly brought to life in a way that makes it feel real. If you've read the synopsis to this book, then you know the basic gist of the story, and the early readers stating that this has The Handmaid's Tale meets Lord of the Flies vibes are spot on. The entire story is written to the extreme, and yet every moment, down to the most minute detail, is an allegory for experiences that most (dare I say all?) females have encountered at some point and time by their sixteenth birthday.
The writing is atmospheric, breathtakingly beautiful, and evokes the most basic and raw emotion from the reader. Perhaps I had too many preconceived notions going in, but I was also surprised by quite a few of the little twists and turns that Liggett throws at us, and I utterly adore that she did not cut any corners or take any easy outs with this story. There are some really hard, horrifying, things that happen in this book, and even to the very last page, no one is guaranteed a happily ever after, and yet I've never felt more hopeful, secure, and proud to be a woman as I was when I turned the final page of The Grace Year. I know I haven't given much in terms of plot detail, but I truly believe each and every reader should go into this one with an open mind, and open heart, and a need for compulsive page turning, because that's exactly what this book will provide.
I cannot recommend this story highly enough and there aren't enough stars on the entirety of Goodreads to express how emphatically I want you to add this book to your TBR. In some ways, I think females will appreciate this book the most, solely for the feminist thematic elements and encouragement, but I also believe that many men would enjoy and benefit from reading this book as well. Beyond the priceless message it provides, The Grace Year is a highly entertaining read that I wish had been around when I was a teenager. The ending provides the type of female camaraderie that I wished for my predecessors, hope to see for myself and my generation, and feel arising in both of my daughters' generation. Well done, and I cannot wait for this story to be out in the world so that everyone else can read it and discuss.
"The things we do to girls. Whether we put them on pedestals only to tear them down, or use them for parts and holes, we're all complicit in this. But everything touches everything else and I have to believe that some good will come out of all this destruction. The men will never end the grace year. But maybe we can."
*Uncorrected Bound Manuscript provided via the publisher.
Kim Liggett's upcoming novel The Grace Year feels like a mashup of The Handmaid's Tale and Lord of the Flies , with a little bit of The Hunger Games mixed in for good measure. Yet at the same time, it's an immensely unique and disturbing story all its own.
"They call us the weaker sex. It's pounded into us every Sunday in church, how everything's Eve's fault for not expelling her magic when she had the chance, but I still can't understand why the girls don't get a say. Sure, there are secret arrangements, whispers in the dark, but why must the boys get to decide everything? As far as I can tell, we all have hearts. We all have brains."
Girls are told that they are dangerous, that they possess the power to lead men into destructive temptation, much as Eve did to Adam. They are led to believe that they have "magic"—that their bodies give off a certain essence when they're on the cusp of their 16th birthday. So all of the 16-year-old girls are sent away for one year, their so-called "grace year," and they're expected to release their magic into the wilderness so they can return purified and ready for marriage if they've been selected, or ready for life as a laborer if not.
Tierney James has always lived her life caring little for convention, not listening to the commands of her mother or the insults of the other women and girls in the community. She's not interested in getting married, in being the property of a man—she looks forward to living a life working in the fields, spending time at one with nature. She's known by many as "Tierney the Terrible" for her wild ways, and no one expects her to be chosen for marriage anyway. But when she is chosen, she is uncertain that she wants that kind of life for herself, although refusing will have grave consequences for her and her family.
The girls are sent into the wilderness and left to fend for themselves. They must deal with the brutal elements, forage for their own food, and avoid the so-called "poachers" that lurk in the woods, who wait for one wrong step so they can kill a girl and sell her essence to the black market. But as the girls begin to form a society of sorts, Tierney realizes it's not the wilderness or the poachers that pose the biggest threat to their survival—it's each other.
"We hurt each other because it's the only way we're permitted to show our anger. When our choices are taken from us, the fire builds within. Sometimes I feel like we might burn down the world to cindery bits, with our love, our rage, and everything in between."
The Grace Year is at turns violent, disturbing, sad, defiant, sexy, romantic, and hopeful. It is a story of young women being made to believe they are dangerous yet deficient, that their only true worth will be recognized if they marry and have children, and that they need to destroy each other in order to secure a happy future for themselves and their families. It is also a story of how much men fear women and seek to control them to overcome those fears.
As outrageous as this story is on many fronts, there are definitely places in which the book is eerily prescient of what is happening in our society today. Liggett did a great job ratcheting up the tension in the book, and creating characters I found myself rooting for, as well as some I was definitely rooting against.
At times, I found the violence in the book to be really disturbing, and after a while, the cruelty of the girls' was very hard to read about. The violence may be a trigger for some, because at times it's fairly graphic. But even when I had difficulty with the book, there was something about the story that I couldn't turn away from.
Reading The Grace Year definitely got me thinking, and I'm certainly thankful that we're not in this kind of situation in our society today. This is one of those books that I won't be able to get out of my mind for a while.
NetGalley and Wednesday Books provided me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!
This book will be published October 8, 2019.
See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.
Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2018.html.
You can follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
How do you review a book that you enjoyed reading immensely yet it has glaringly poor execution?
The plot is sooo good.
Welcome to a world where girls are banished to an isolated camp for their sixteenth year of life (The Grace Year) to vanquish the "magic", or power, they hold over men, only to be married off or assigned duties as an indentured worker upon their return.
"White ribbons for the young girls, red for the grace year girls, and black for the wives. Innocence. Blood. Death."
This camp sounds like a great setup for some serious nightmarish drama, huh?
Well, we'll never know because very little of the storyline revolves around the day to day inner workings of the camp.
I found it difficult to get on board from the beginning because there is no background, no history to tell the reader how we got to this point in time. Little to no character development.
The pacing is so off. Months pass by with the turn of a page. Months that I wanted to hear about.
The MC had so much potential. She is painted to be a strongwillled forward thinking girl in a backwards world. Yet at the camp she allows herself to be mercilessly bullied to the point of near death with no attempts at defending herself. In the end she does little to advance the plight of the women.
I don't think I'm giving anything away here when I ask why does EVERY YA book feature a romance? There's no room for it in this storyline. It's another eye rolling insta-love that does not fit the girl power theme.
This book has been compared to a marrying of Lord of the Flies and The Handmaid's Tale and I think that's a fair assessment in as far as the plot goes. However, The Grace Year doesn't quite reach the level of tension and abject horror found in those stories.
This book lands flatly in the YA genre and teen girls are going to eat it up, thus I suspect it will be an instant bestseller upon release.
5 Stars for entertainment
3 Stars for execution
You do the math.
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Do not be fooled by the excessively pink cover, this is not a sweet story and the characters do not care to be likeable and cherished by the reader. It’s a wild, wild world and so are the girls in it. I have not read a YA dystopian in over a year, but this one reminded me why I used to actively seek out these types of stories. Because they are messy and ugly and dramatic and despite all that, or maybe because of it, I am fascinated.
In Tierney’s dystopian society, teenage girls are believed to have powers that are a danger to the men. Every year, girls are either claimed by men to become wives or unclaimed and left to find work. But before their status officially changes, they are sent as a group into the forest for a year to squash their unnatural powers. Some of them return, others don’t. This is what happens to Tierney.
This is a story of survival. You’d think it would be about women surviving men or the wild mainly, but actually, in this particular case, women need to survive one another. Indeed, in a society where women are not allowed to be mad at men, the only people they can turn their anger against are other women. It’s a sad and disturbing thought. But to make it more disturbing, women are such possessions that there are poachers who kill power-wielding girls in order to sell their parts to consumers who believe consuming these young girls will improve their health. Cannibalism, ladies and gents.
I’m not surprised Kim Liggett has written horror stories in the past after finishing in this book, and I’m sure more are to come, because this was terrifying. It’s unrealistic and yet very realistic at the same time. I couldn’t imagine this happening in our society, but I had no trouble visualizing everything the author described. This is a story that I will not soon forget.
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