It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: July 9th 2019
Graphic Violence, Gore, Blood, Body Horror, Death, Mentions of Self Harm, Starvation Mentions of Suicide, Forced Medical Procedures
I will admit: this isn’t my normal read. I’m not a big horror reader, let alone a body horror reader… it’s not a genre I usually go to, even during the spooky season.
I liked it. Can’t say I had any real expectations going in, the cover and the queer rep was a BIG motivator going into this and I liked it. No circling around it.
There was the visual of ravenous girls with guns in a boarding school trying to survive, while still having classes to attend, which, I get: they need some semblance of normalcy. Yet, even the visual of the island left me feeling very claustrophobic. Especially when we learn the girls have not only been quarantined there, but there’s no real hope for rescue in sight.
This is very much so a character focused story, though…. but I can’t say I was able to get invested in them. Of course, in general I was able to root and get behind them and their actions, but personally??? I wasn’t there. I did appreciate and actually loved how they were all very unlikable. And I was still able to not really dislike them.
❥ Hetty – Our focal POV, lost an eye from the disease and… I won’t say indifferent about their situation, but isn’t really thinking about it until something she cares about is taken from her… then it’s a mad dash to get it back.
❥ Reese – A disconnected girl who became angry and even more withdrawn after her father dies. Has an amoured like hand from the disease.
❥ Byatt – Was probably my favorite character; she was deeply complex. Not saying the other characters weren’t, but one minute I’m thinking oh, she’s such a cinnamon roll, to oh wow, shit got dark real quick. She also has a second spine courtesy of the Tox.
On the theme with connecting, I wasn’t really connecting with the story, sadly. And I don’t mean relating to it, I mean I felt like a a reader reading a book— I didn’t feel immersed. There was very much a disconnect, you know? I definitely liked the story, though… I just wasn’t there with it.
The romance was also something I wanted more of? I really liked the idea of them together… I just wanted more of them. It was such a complex relationship and I get that it wasn’t the focal part of the story, but more backstory, or more development or just more would have had me squealing in happiness because I realllyyyyyy liked the couple together. Give me razor sharp girls loving each other any day.
The main issue I had with this entire book at the end of the day was there needed to be more meat on the bones. Look, if you want a creepy, body horror book about unlikable characters surviving, here you go.
But, if you want answers, or explanations or ANY of that… maybe wait for a sequel? If there is a sequel? It felt like things were leading to something bigger, like this book
should have could have been longer.