April 15, 2024

Novel Lives

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Knowing Information Only As Characters Do While Utilizing The Setting AND Writing Structure As Characters Provide A Slow Burn Intensity That Turns Rory Power’s Debut Wilder Girls Into One Of The Best Of The Year

Discussing the content of Rory Power’s debut novel Wilder Girls is going to be very difficult without ruining the totality of what makes it without any doubt, in my mind, the best of the year to date. Having said that, I will do my best.
wilder girls
Before that exercise in futility, there is plenty to discuss about Power’s writing craft that can be discussed. And it has as much a hand in the brilliance of Wilder Girls as the content. Powers exudes influence of Jack Kerouac.
For those that might not be familiar with his style and don’t need a full course from the linked website, here is a brief rundown  of the specific – not all- parts of his “spontaneous style” I found in parts- again, not all (mostly during Byatt’s point of view) – of Kerouac’s style. (very brief and by no means meant to be critically commented on or attacked, I beg of you).

  • No periods separating sentence
  • Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
  • …and trying to eliminate the period, he created a writing style all his own to go with the rhythm of the Beat generation.
  • Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition

Power uses these literary devices to provoke emotions from readers in reaction to a deep psychological understanding of character’s thoughts, circumstances and situational contexts. It is the first time I have seen it utilized in prose. I have previously seen it utilized in poetry such as Jason Reynolds Long Way Down I have also seen structure shattered in a unique and brutally impactful way in Tiffany Jackson’s Monday’s Not Coming.
However, this is the first time I’ve seen sentence structure played with in a novel written in prose that becomes a character, itself. It is used sparingly as to not overtake or overburden the reader, when it will provide the most impact.
Power inputs these devices when the character’s surroundings and condition most benefit from conveying a critical level of understanding. One that drags the reader not just into that point in time but into the character’s body both mentally and physically.
Both quotes below are sans spoilers, I believe. They are out of context and as vague as I believe, possible.

What is bolded and underlined in the quote below was done by me, not the book. I did it just to point out the repetitive phrase.

But they slip in and out of my head, and I’m not I’m not I’m not as here as I thought I was.

Below is an example of the lack of punctuation.

Light my eyes tearing up they always do they’re too sensitive I could never get my pupils dilated when I went to the eye doctor and somebody bending down over me blinking and sharpening

It is impossible to quote a break sentence structure. I would never be able to type it correctly or would fear getting it wrong. You’ll just have to trust me on that one.
Structurally there is also a patience to Power’s style not often seen in a debut novel. When I recommended, on twitter, to M.R. Carey (the author of The Girl with All the Gifts) originator of the phrase “books that make reading a contact sport” that he read Wilder Girls, there was a reason. I would never do such a thing lightly. I would, however, put Wilder Girls in that rare air, albeit for different reasons.
Yet, there is a certain aspect they definitely have in common.  There is a patience to  Wilder Girls akin to The Girl with All the Gifts. It is an unraveling of what is happening to the Raxter Girls that builds up a tightness in your chest, an inability to breathe and a turning of your stomach.
It doesn’t rush. It doesn’t move at your pace. The narrative will not be bullied into what to do or how to do it. It will make you squeamish. It will make you plead. It will make people who care about you beg you to stop reading it. But you won’t. You can’t.
You will find out what you want to know only when Powers is good and ready to tell you. That is to say, you will know only when the Raxter girls know. The book unfolds itself in real time. And as situations happen to them, they will grab you by the gut, by the jugular, psychologically and not let go. As information reveals itself to the girls (perceived, misunderstood and/or the truth), it will be revealed to you.
The unknowing of how and why what is happening while bearing witness to what is happening, from survival to the growing plague. From threats, both known and unknown to the girls, is what makes Wilder Girls a complete Mind bend.
Yes, Power is descriptive in the horrific and gruesome brutality of the sickness taking over the Raxter girls. But I would argue that it is the psychological games that Power weaves throughout the plot that is the fiercest part of the content.
Here’s the thing. While Wilder Girls would have been a remarkable novel without the intrinsic writing craft Power holds, it is these pieces that throw it over the top.
I am afraid there isn’t much more I can say about Wilder Girls. If this isn’t enough? Ask a question in the comment section and I will see if I can answer it sans spoilers.


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