I’ve read a lot of truly amazing books lately, and The Grace Year by Kim Liggett was one of them. I first heard about this book on Twitter, and after looking it up, saw it was being marketed as The Handmaid’s Tale meets Lord of the Flies. After reading it, I can confirm that this comparison holds up, and you should add The Grace Year to your TBR piles immediately.
I always find that the most difficult reviews to write are for books that I absolutely loved. It’s hard to find words to explain how wonderful they are because all I want to do is scream “THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! IT MADE ME CRY AND KEPT ME UP AT NIGHT AND EVEN THOUGH I FINISHED IT WEEKS AGO I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT IT!! YOU NEED TO READ IT RIGHT NOW!!!” Anyone who’s asked me about The Grace Year has received that type of answer. For the sake of this review though, I will dive a little bit deeper.
The Grace Year takes place in a small, seemingly isolated community that is referred to as Garner County. Men reign supreme here, and women are treated as little more than objects. As young girls, they wear white ribbons in their hair to reflect their purity and innocence. Then, once they turn 16, they enter into what is called their “grace year.”
Before that happens, though, they are forced to get dressed up, are paraded through town, and then presented to eligible men (AKA, those seeking wives). The men get to choose who they want as a wife, and those who do not receive a suitor are destined to a life of hard labor. After this weird (and downright disgusting) ceremony, the girls trade their white ribbons for red ones, and are banished to endure their grace year.
“But Lizz, what the heck is a grace year?”
Basically, all the girls are brought out to an encampment in the middle of nowhere, where they have to survive for 12 whole months. And no, this isn’t like some fun extended summer camp situation. They’re sent there because it’s believed women possess an evil sort of magic, one that they use to control men, and they need to rid themselves of it before they’re married off or join the work force.
The belief in their magic is problematic enough, but it’s coupled with the fact that while they’re staying in the encampment, they’re also being hunted by poachers. Yes, poachers, the same way humans hunt animals. Why? Because it’s believed their magic lives in their skin, and if consumed, can give the user prolonged youth, beauty, and a little bit of magic for themselves. So, yes, the girls are being hunted and skinned alive because the society in this book is absolutely nuts.
The story follows one girl in particular, Tierney James, who, from a young age, is skeptical of the grace year, the men who rule over her county, and the society in which she lives in general. She doesn’t want to be married off, she doesn’t believe she possesses any form of magic, and she certainly doesn’t want to follow any of the societal norms being shoved down her throat.
Needless to say, Tierney isn’t going to be quiet, and she certainly isn’t going to follow suit either. As I’m sure you can guess, all of these factors come together and result in one badass story.
I don’t want to give too much away, as the release date is still a few months out, but if you’re looking for a book full of feminist themes, strong female characters, a dystopian setting, or something that will make you angry and want to fight for equality, add this title to your TBR.
The Grace Year will be available on October 8, 2019, and can be bought wherever books are sold. Thank you to the publisher for an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley.