Emma Cline’s debut novel seduces readers into a world of drugs, free love, and the female gaze. The book resembles the classic movie “Almost Famous” in its time (the book is set only a few years prior) and the vibe of losing innocence -sexually and emotionally. However, the movie focuses on a boy’s growth while in contrast this book seeps in the idea of girls growing because of other girls.
The protagonist shifts her view from her current middle aged self to her 14 year old self, when she joined a cult not because of the charismatic male leader, but because of the allure of acceptance and love from other girls.
Cline uses the young narrator to painfully pick at female readers’ mental scabs. She digs up memories of furiously hiding zits and obsessing over the best way to wrangle a passable curl out of stick straight hair. Beyond that, readers fully realize how much they once also craved approval from female peers (and maybe still do).
Where does this need originate? It would have been easy to understand why the protagonist might have fallen for the male cult leader. Girls are conditioned to seek powerful men to give them affection and protection. However, Cline’s leading lady wants Suzanne. Suzanne is just a little bit older, holds no strong power, and ends up being murderous. Yet readers along with the protagonist want Suzanne’s approval and love.
“The Girls” mediates on the desire for girls building one another up and the self-esteem that can only be found from there.
Why do you think that this novel has catapulted into the best selling list using the need for female, not male, acceptance?