Wilder Girls

368p. Delacorte. Jul. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525645580.
Gr 10 Up-In the 18 months since the mysterious Tox began infecting students and teachers at the Raxter School for Girls, nearly half of the school's population has died or become physically disfigured. With their island campus placed under quarantine by the Navy and the CDC, the remaining girls have become inured to the disease's horrific physical manifestations and accepting of each other's open sores, webbed fingers, and bizarre mutations such as second spines and silver scales. Within this claustrophobic environment, dutiful scholarship student Hetty leaps at the chance to join the Boat Shift, an elite group of older students permitted to leave the school grounds to collect secret deliveries of government supplies. But Hetty soon discovers that in addition to the Tox, Raxter faces sinister threats from within its own ranks. When her best friend Byatt disappears, Hetty vows to stop at nothing to find her, even in the face of ever greater danger and violence from the very people who are supposed to protect her. While the novel's first half is full of careful world-building and character development, the second half veers sharply into action-packed thrills (and a bit of queer romance), and the dissonance in style is somewhat jarring. Nevertheless, Power's debut remains a quick and engaging read, with a deliberately ambiguous ending that opens the door for a sequel. Due to extensive graphic violence, including suicide and self-mutilation, this title is best suited for mature teen readers.
VERDICT Dark, surreal, and intense, this feminist-themed title will appeal to fans of science fiction, speculative fiction, and horror; recommended for all libraries serving teens.-Kelsy Peterson, Forest Hill Coll., Melbourne, Australia

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