THE GRACE YEAR by Kim Liggett. New York: St. Martin's Publishing Group, 2019. 404p. ISBN 978-1250145444 hc, $16.99 Gr. 9-12 YA FIC
No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden to discuss what happens to those sixteen year old girls who live in an isolated encampment deep in the forest for exactly one year. Other than survival, their focus is to dispel the magic essence attributed to the sexual allure of teenage girls before returning to an archaic and repressed society that treats women as property. Tierney makes the journey with her classmates, some of whom disappear along the way, stolen by poachers who sell their essence and body parts as aphrodisiacs on the black market. At the encampment, Tierney tries to use her common sense to make the stay a cooperative and comfortable experience for the whole group, but Kiersten, the dominant female, begins her reign of terror over the girls. Eventually Tierney is exiled and ends up living with and falling in love with Ryker, one of the poachers who is a contradiction of values; both kind and predatory at the same time. Alliances are made and broken along the way, as themes of female relationships and survival psychology are examined. Just when readers think they know where the story is leading, the page unfolds in new and unexpected directions. The unpredictable ending will give readers a lot to think about.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI