Disclaimer: Thanks so much Penguin audio and Libro.fm for the advance listening copy.
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.
I picked up The Grace Year because I thought it was an adult novel from the reading the summary. I didn’t realize it was YA until I started listening to it, but I was still excited because The Grace Year has a very unique premise. It’s speculative thriller with Lord of the Flies and The Handmaid’s Tale vibes. The book started off really strong and I waited with bated breath for the plot to unfold because I had no idea what the fuck was going on. I was so hooked and into the story that I posted reading updates in my Instagram stories because this had the potential to set itself apart from other YA books in this genre. Unfortunately, the story lost steam in the middle and became super tropey towards the end. I’m so sad about that because I really thought this was going to be a 5 star read.
What I liked
- The Handmaid’s Tale x Lord of the Flies x The Hunger Games vibes
- Atmospheric setting
- The first half is extremely entertaining and suspenseful
- Mystery subplot and twists are fantastic
- Women’s issues
What I didn’t like
- Last 20% kind of weakened the story because the author relied heavily on cliche YA tropes towards towards the end
- Side characters are underdeveloped so the friendships aren’t quite meaningful and I didn’t have much of a emotional response to the characters or the things that happened to them
- The romance is shoehorned into the story and completely unnecessary
- The pacing
Verdict and Recommendation
Great potential. Ending could’ve been executed better. I’m not the audience for this so take what I say with a grain of salt. 3/5 stars.
If you’re in the mood for…speculative fiction with mystery aspect that explores women’s issues and Lord of the Flies vibes, check this out.