Trigger Warning: This book contains the following topics that might be difficult for certain readers: bullying, death, physical abuse, suicide, violence.
- Publication date: October 8, 2019 by Wednesday Books
- Genres: Dystopian, Suspense, Young Adult
- Edition: Kindle
- Page length: 407
- Rating: 4 stars
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.
This novel just recently began circulating around on social media sites, but I originally discovered this one from seeing an Instagram review from @itsahardbacklife4me. I was hesitant to give it a read because it was being marketed as a young adult dystopian novel, which is a genre that I have not given much attention to. However, I’m so happy that I stepped out of my comfort zone because this one has become one of my top favorites for the year!
In Garner County, the time for another grace year has arrived; a punishment for girls aged sixteen due to the town’s belief that they possess magic that creates temptations for the male inhabitants. This year, Tierney James is the next girl in her household to receive this suffering. She will be one of thirty-three girls sent into the woods to begin working on expelling her magic, battling the harsh elements, and avoiding death at the hands of poachers.
Once the girls arrive to their destination, one girl in particular seems to demand control over the others: Kiersten Jenkins. She begins making claims that her magic has already came in and sets out to release the magical abilities for others in the encampment. Tierney, however, does not feel like she possesses any type of magic and quickly becomes an enemy of Kiersten’s when she expresses that she is not interested in her offer.
It’s the beginning of autumn when the girls arrive at their encampment. They start assessing their surroundings and conclude that the confinement lacks clean drinking water, adequate food supply, and the resources to stay warm during the upcoming winter. Tierney’s father, the county’s healer, taught his daughter basic survival skills that prove to be beneficial; she builds rain barrels that will collect rainwater that is safer for the group to drink, she uses seeds her sister provided to grow produce, and chops down some trees to use as firewood. However, all her efforts go unappreciated by the other girls as they begin separating themselves from her and continue to obey the instructions of Kiersten.
As if the elements of nature wasn’t enough to worry about, the bigger threat remains in poachers. The poachers hide outside of the encampment waiting for a grace girl to venture outside the boundaries; the poachers hunt down grace year girls and offer up their corpses in exchange for payment.
At the end of their trial, only fifteen girls managed to survive. The events of the year have caused the remaining girls to be forever changed and they decide to join forces and leave the encampment in better conditions than previous years. If you haven’t read this one yet, be sure to preorder now from Target, Amazon, or any other place you shop for books. If you love dystopian novels, the Handmaid’s Tale series, or want an empowering read on your TBR, then be sure to give this one a read!
* I was given an advanced reader’s copy of this book via NetGalley and MacMillan in exchange for an honest review.