Book Review: The Girls

Cline’s breakout novel explores cult stereotypes


photo credit: Fiona Duffy

The Girls grants access to the inner workings of a 14-year old’s mind.

Renny Acheson, Contributing Writer


With cults being introduced comfortably in the media, with shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and The Following displaying common cult stereotypes, it can be hard to understand the true nature of cults. We read about cults in textbooks, experience their presence in the media, and create analyses to explain their occurrence. Generally, we associate members with people who are not like “us.” Cult members are often seen as people who chose an alternative lifestyle, one where in the eyes of the media, rational thought has seemed to have gone out the window. Ask anyone about cults that they’ve heard, and you will get a wide variety of answers, but they will probably tell you about hooded figures, polygamy, and animal sacrifice.

The Girls, the debut novel by Emma Cline, challenges the notion that cults look like people in hoods sacrificing farm animals for an ambiguous deity. Cline pushes the idea that cults happen at the end of the cul-de-sac and include people that wear clothes like the rest of the world. Cults can look like a group of people living on a farm, preaching love and acceptance for one another. Cults can look like fried chicken, outings to the general store, and dressing up to look beautiful. The Girls offers sly insight into the world of an outcasted female teenager, and a harrowing greater glance at the effects of cult-conformity and the tendency for attachment to lead to violence. Disturbing, terrifying, and riveting, Cline’s breakout gets the blood pumping and the ideas flowing.