THE GRACE YEAR
Written by Kim Liggett
Published by Wednesday Books, October 8th, 2019
My star rating – 5 stars!
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. Find it on Goodreads
Well, meet the most unexpected read of 2019 and, dare I say, my new favourite obsession! I went into this one with no expectations. I’ve seen it described as the new Handmaid’s Tale, which i’ve yet to read (can I even call myself a proper Canadian right now??) so I didn’t have anything to compare this to. Let me just say that if the Handmaid’s Tale is even half of what this book was then I’m reading it as soon as I can!
But before I get into my (longwinded) review, I need to mention a few trigger warnings. Though this is a young adult book, it’s quite strong in its themes. It’s very dark and there may be a few things that would unsettle some. There is a lot of abuse – physical, mental, and sexual. Due to the nature of this book there is a lot of mistreatment of women – which is basically the whole point of the book. There are also themes of suicide. It’s used in a way to show just how these women are controlled on a daily basis and how things work in this place, how they react, and how they want to overcome.
Now, let’s get into my thoughts. This book caught me off guard. It isn’t a new premise to be honest. Women being controlled and having their free will and thoughts taken from them. But the way that she handled this story was so well done. It was a hard read at times, and far darker than I imagined. These women were told who they would marry, when and where they could go, who they could talk to, and so on. If they stepped out of line OR if the men had another agenda, they would be punished and controlled. The things that happened and HOW they happened were heartbreaking and difficult at times. I think that’s what made it so impactful. Here’s a small example (this quote is coming from an uncorrected copy and may be different in the finished copy):
She would make for a docile wife, but her hips are too narrow, bedable for sure, but not sturdy enough to withstand childbirth. Of course some men like breakable things. They like to break them.
I wouldn’t call myself a feminist. I hope for equality more than anything (let’s not get into that right now though). But this book hit a little too close to home. Some of the things that happened to the women in this book went right to my heart and made it break. I related to the smallest of things. Being that I’m in an industry that’s 99.9% men, I’m looked down on because i’m a woman and I have to fight, push, and remain strong to be looked at as “valid”. But even though this was a hard read at times, I ended up with this wonderful feeling of where we are as women now and just how amazing we all are!
The women of this book are forced to spend a year away so that they can expel their sins and magic. But no one knows what this year entails because no one speaks of it. The reality of this year is shocking and, in reality, the most dangerous thing that happens to them comes from women themselves. But the message is about women being stronger than that. There was also speak of a rebellion. It wasn’t a big part of the story – it was mentioned in small parts and a nod to what will happen in the future for these characters. The rebellion is a new idea to them. A glimmer of hope that would spark the women into thinking there could be a different way of life. It was a small secret hug that let them know that they’re not alone in their suffering and things could change for the better one day.
As for the writing – flawless. No joke. Her writing was like a hard punch to my core. She was able to invoke so much emotion as I was reading! I felt for each and every character in ways I never imagined. The characters were all so different in their personalities and situations, and following their journey throughout this year was a lot to take in. Like I said, the premise isn’t a new one, but her execution made this something to remember. And the pace was great as well. There was never a time where I was bored or wondering when the next plot point was coming. I just kept flipping pages as quickly as possible!
If you can’t tell – I LOVED this book! It’s rare for me to come across a book and just sit. I turned the last page, closed the book, left it in my lap, and just sat with my feelings. It’s not something I can explain – you need to feel it for yourself. Be prepared – this is a bumpy ride.
Thank you so much to Raincoast Books Canada and Wednesday Books for the chance to read this in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and are uninfluenced.
Be sure to check out the other bloggers on the tour! Oh! And by the way – there’s some exciting news! This book has been optioned for a movie to be directed and produced by Elizabeth Banks!!!
Until next time, happy reading!