No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.
In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.
Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.
With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.
The Grace Year showed me that there can be different kinds of “magic” and it’s not always the good kind.
The Story and the Setting
The Grace Year is set in a world where men rule. This is a theme we are all to familiar with. BUT, Kim Liggett gives this story a twist with giving the women in her book a magical power that make the men afraid of them. This leads to all the girls being led to an isolated island where they will spend a whole year and will have to fend for themselves in the wild with minimal provisions. The way that Liggett portrays the quick break down of all the girls really gives you an insight as to what can happen when a group of people are separated from society as you know it. There comes a sickness that can infect you mentally and physically. Horror is another theme that Liggett does well. Some of the deaths in the story are gruesome, but it truly does a good job of scaring you when you need to be scared. Overall, the story was not predictable and a group of girls in this type of setting is not written about often. The author also manages to fit a whole year into one book, which is sometimes hard to do.
Terrible Tierney may not be the heroine that you want, but she is the heroine that you need. Her personality reflects that of any 16 year-old girl stuck in her position and while this can cause some frustration with the choices she makes, we can never fully understand what it’s like to be in her position. Tierney is shown to be strong and smart throughout her story, using things that she learned in childhood to survive the gruesome fate that she has been given. She exudes adulthood, but she can also be very childlike at times, understandable by her age. She definitely grows a lot during her Grace Year and her character development from being meek to being a leader is a great thing to see.
The conclusion of this story introduces potential main characters for the second book, which gives me hope because I would love to read the follow-up to this. Liggett also answers some questions that may have been gnawing at you while you were reading the story, BUT she doesn’t reveal all. This ending has me yearning for a second book and itching to know where my favorite characters are going to end up. I really hope Liggett puts out a sequel, however, if she doesn’t I thoroughly enjoyed the story all the same!
I could not put down this book. I read it over the course of two days and found myself staying up late one night to finish it. I gave The Grace Year 4/5 stars because it was a really great book with a great plot. There were twists in this story that I was not expecting and that’s exactly what had me hooked. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a love for dystopia and feminism. If you pick this book up there’s a good chance you won’t be putting it down.