This book is important. Yes, you can absolutely compare it in some ways to Lord of the Flies and The Handmaid's Tale, but this novel is entirely its own creature. I was immediately drawn in to the strange (but eerily imaginable) world of Garner County. In Garner County, 16-year-old girls are banished for one year to release their dangerous magic into the wild, thereby protecting men from their powerful sensuous spells. What happens during that year is never spoken of, but not all of the girls return...
There's a lot to unpack here. The suspense and tension leading up to when the girls are sent away for their Grace Year is delightfully heart-in-mouth unbearable. And it just never stops. The only reason I didn't devour this book in one sitting is because I needed a piece to come back to the next day.
The main character Tierney...I loved her so much. She's not perfect, but she's strong and smart and vulnerable and passionate. I spent most of the book fearing for her life (in multiple ways) and I just can't say any more about that. The relationships between this group of girls and how they develop during the Grace Year is astounding. It felt so authentic, so tragic, and so meaningful.
There were some significant twists and turns in a meticulously tight plot. Even if I saw something coming, I was still super satisfied by how it played out. No, I didn't get everything "my way" but you know what? That's not how life works, and the book was better for it. For example, not having an exact time period/location specified would normally annoy me, but this was a conscious decision that I found to be in service of the plot.
All in all, I found this to be a deeply impressive novel with characters that sear themselves into your heart and leave you with plenty to think about in regards to society and how we operate in that sphere. There are definitely some more mature themes in this novel, so I would hold off on this one if you are squeamish about violence or uncomfortable with some sexual material. HIGHLY recommend for mature teens and any adult.