October 8, 2019
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.
Purchase from Amazon: The Grace Year
What feels like an blend of The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale and perhaps a little of The Lord of the Flies, Kim Liggett’s The Grace Year is nevertheless a page-turner drawing the reader into a gruesome world of subjugated women, lascivious and barbaric men, and seeming hopelessness.
Tierney James, the middle James daughter, has lived 16 years pretty much as the son her father never had. She has learned survival skills, ventures into forbidden areas, and has maintained a friendship with Michael, even though they’re at the age when girls and boys should no longer be friends. At 16, the girls are selected by the boys for marriage. Because she has alienate most everyone and doubts any boy would choose her (which is how she wants it), Tierney is planning to happily be a castout and work in the fields. But she has to survive the Grace Year first.
Liggett’s writing is very good, sharp yet offering some poetic moments. Mostly readable, some passages seemed too dense. Or maybe that was me.
I had several problems with the novel. One was setting and world building. Is this a dystopian settlement of the past, present, or future? I felt from descriptions that the setting was near the Great Lakes or the mid-west. But couldn’t determine the setting with regard to time, which would have helped me understand the dynamics better.
The romance that enters the middle of the novel stopped me from reading for a bit. While I understand why it was important, to some degree, and even enjoyed the couple, it felt off, as if Tierney is allowed a momentary paradisaical respite from the horrors. And perhaps that is it. Perhaps she is to represent Eve and the downfall of the society of Garner County.
The Grace Year offers mystery, ghost stories, repugnant human behavior, quests for survival and hope. Despite the few problems I had with the novel, I finished it quickly and would recommend it to readers who enjoy dystopian YA novels although with the caveat that it has many grim aspects so the reader should be on the older reading range of YA.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.