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.
- Graphic violence and body horror. Gore.
- On the page character death, parental death, and animal death, though the animals are not pets.
- Behavior and descriptive language akin to self harm, and references to such.
- Food scarcity and starvation. Emesis.
- A scene depicting chemical gassing.
- Suicide and suicidal ideation.
- Non-consensual medical treatment.
Book Review ★★★★☆
I definitely enjoyed this read. I spent like 2 days devouring it, itching to see what would come next. The best way I can describe it would be an eerie, gory mystery island full of a bunch of sick girls.
I loved the slight speculative aspect of it. Not only are these girls sick and (probably) dying, their illness, the Tox, includes random body modifications. Hetty, our mc, has something growing behind one of her eyeballs. Byatt, another mc/side character, has a second spine growing out of her back. The body mods are creative and totally gruesome.
Throughout the book you’re following Hetty as she uncovers more and more about what exactly is going on and why the Tox is the Tox. She’ll probably learn some unsavory things. (hint: she does) This is definitely a book that expects you to put the puzzle pieces together yourself to create the larger picture. All the clues are hidden throughout the book, and it’s your job to fit them together and figure out what the hell is going on here. Because there sure it a lot going on. I’m not going to lie. I did not love the ending. It’s one of my least favorite types of endings. I understand why people do it, but I’m still here waiting for more.
This was atmospheric. I felt like I was in a chilling northeastern island running through the halls of an abandoned boarding school, while in actuality I was standing in a hot, overly crowded subway car. She went for spooky and she made it there.
Right after finishing the book I couldn’t decide whether I liked it. The more I thought about it, I realized it was because I didn’t exactly connect with the voice. It felt kind of detached, bleak. I’m not sure whether that is intentional or not, but looking back at it now, I think it fits the story pretty well. Based on the girls’ current predicament, everyone is feeling a bit bleak. It’s very matter of fact which is not typically my writing style of choice, but I understand why it was used here. Talk of death was so casual that is sometimes surprised me. Not necessarily in a bad way, but I guess that says more about the mindset of these girls and how all they can really like about is themselves and their own survival.
The one thing that I still feel fell flat for me was the romance. There are two romance-ish situations going on in this book and I really did not believe either of them. One is meant to be hate-to-love/ignore to love (lol) and the turning point seemed too simple, too fast. I don’t know. I wanted more believable build up I think. With a few minimally changed scenes the romance could be completely eliminated. (imo) I’m actually really curious to see what everyone thought about the romance. Based on hype, I thought it was going to be a much more prominent part of the book.
***spoilers for the end***
Dude, the scene with the parasite had me fully gagging on the subway.
*Thank you to Netgalley and Delacorte Press for this review copy!