The Grace Year by Kim Liggett – Stunning Prose and A Chilling Story of Quiet Rebellion

The Grace Year book coverGenres: Young Adult, Speculative Fiction, Dystopia
Pages: 416
Published: October 8, 2019 by Wednesday Books
Format: eARC from Wednesday Books via Netgalley

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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 is haunting and beautiful. It kept me up way too late, reading for hours until I finished it–it is absolutely unputdownable. The writing is evocative, and Liggett masterfully paints at an atmospheric and disturbing world that rings true, despite its horrors.

This book is extremely readable and entertaining, but I must say something was missing for me. The character development fell a little flat, and I found myself wishing for more focused character development for Tierney and her peers. In addition to the lack of character growth, a romance appears about halfway through the book and seemed to nearly derail the entire anticipated plot.

Instead of focusing on the girls and their survival, the book narrows in on Tierney’s romance. While it was an interesting way to add a layer to the worldbuilding by portraying another perspective through Tierney’s relationship, it overall feels like a complete change of direction in terms of tone and plot.

Of course, the romance is alluring and fun to read about. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the novel quite as much as I did if it hadn’t been included. I love romance, it just didn’t feel like a perfect fit the way it ended up in this book. I just wanted Tierney’s development to be stronger and without the influence of a love interest. Can you tell I’m conflicted?!

Don’t get me wrong––I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s a thrilling, dangerous adventure that builds up to a nearly satisfying conclusion. I think I just wanted a book with a stronger and less subtle feminist message.

However, with each horrifying misogynistic practice in THE GRACE YEAR, our attention is drawn to a similar, sometimes less exaggerated version of it that exists in our reality. Liggett expertly draws metaphors and explicit imagery for the horrors girls face every day–in the real world.

The verdict? In the end, the subtle and the sharp way that Liggett directs attention to the ridiculousness of how misogyny exists and operates in our world does pack the punch I was looking for. With beautiful writing and an intensely thrilling story, readers will be glued to the book until the very end.

Rating: ★★★★

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