The Grace Year Book Review

Okay, so you know that whole process you go through when you decide to read a widely popular book? It usually starts out with seeing seemingly endless posts on social media about how great a particular book is. You start off by maybe thinking the cover is interesting and by the thousandth time you’ve seen a post about the same book you’re determined NOT to read it, but that 1,001st review is the one that pushes you over the edge and convinces you to cave in and put a hold on it at your library. Sometimes those books turn out to fall far short of all the hype, but every now and then you come across a book that actually lives up to all the high praise it’s been getting. Well, The Grace Year by Kim Liggett definitely falls into the latter category!

So the premise of the book is that all the 16-year-old girls in this community are sent to an island for their grace year, presumably to dispel all of their “magic” that can supposedly lure men to commit sins. I’ve seen countless reviews describing this book as a cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies, and that description couldn’t be more accurate. I highly recommend checking out the book’s trigger warnings on The StoryGraph because there is a lot of graphic content.

The novel tackles so many toxic messages that are both explicitly and implicitly perpetuated by the patriarchy (both in the book and in real life). Honestly I feel like I could reread the book right now and probably take away many more valuable messages. Perhaps my favorite message portrayed in the book is that women don’t need magic to reclaim our power. So often I see authors turn to magic in order to put a feminist spin on their book, but what hope does that give women who are living in the unmagical, and frequently sexist, real world? Yes, I know the magic is supposed to symbolize the power women have in real life, but isn’t it so much more moving to read a story where the women make a difference in society without magic? Isn’t the bond between those who are opposed stronger when we can see the magic of that bond, without the necessity of superpowers? I would argue that it is and I think Kim Liggett would agree.

I don’t want to give away too much of the book so you can discover it’s greatness on your own, but if you’re looking for a dystopian novel that highly focuses on feminism, has a little romance, and a lot of gore, then this is the book for you!

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