Due to the rave reviews and recommendations by my girl @kelseyandherbooks, The Grace Year by Kim Liggett has been on my TBR list for a few months now. With the launch of Kelsey and Emma’s book club #EmmaAndKelseyMadeMeDoIt and in honor of their first book selection for July being The Grace Year, there was no better time for me to finally dive into this highly anticipated and incredibly hyped up read 🤗
The Grace Year is set in Garner County, where its residents believe that when girls approach the age of 16, their skin releases a powerful aphrodisiac that lures men from their beds and drives other women crazy with jealousy. For their sixteenth year, they are banished from the county for an entire year (known as the grace year) where they are expected to rid themselves of their powers so that they may return home purified and ready to begin their lives as docile married women. During the grace year, not only are these young girls made to believe that they must suffer, but also that many of them will not make it out alive. As Tierney James enters into her grace year, she dreams of a better life for the girls of Garner County- a life of freedom where they are able to decide their fates, where men don’t control their bodies, where women can befriend one another… and a life without the grace year. Shortly after arriving at the encampment, it doesn’t take long for Tierney to learn that the biggest threat to their safety are not the the brutal elements, the ghosts of prior grace year girls seeking revenge, or even the poachers patiently waiting outside the encampment for the opportunity to skin and gut the grace year girls alive, bottling and selling the essence of their youth in order to feed and take care of their families. It becomes incredibly clear that the greatest threat of all is each other.
The cruelty and horrific acts that these girls succumbed one another to during the grace year was horrible and heart wrenching to read about. However, the book overall is powerful in the way it portrays the beauty in finding your voice, speaking your truth, resisting the patriarchy and being brave enough to pave a new way for future generations. Tierney James is an incredibly strong protagonist who is fiercely brave and risks her life many times during the grace year, as well as public execution once she is home, in order to help lead the changes that are needed to help the girls and women of Garner County have a better life.
I think what makes this book, as well as The Handmaid’s Tale, so intriguing to me is the terrifying idea that dystopian worlds like this could exist. It’s hard to ignore how much these books speak to the time that we are living in. The systemic silencing of women through out this book is absolutely heart wrenching.
While I absolutely enjoyed this story and felt the strength of the underlying messages within it, I didn’t fall in love with it. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read a YA novel in so long, but I felt that the plot fell a little flat for me, especially in comparison to The Handmaid’s Tale, which is obviously not YA. The beginning of the story started off strong, the middle dragged on a bit, and then while the ending picked up and was satisfactory, it felt like it wrapped up a little faster than I wanted and could’ve offered a little more closure. There were also some characters and themes that I wished were more developed throughout the story. At the same time though, this book was still a page turner and I kept wanting to know what was happening next. A lot of people compare this book as a cross between The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale and while I may be one of the rare bookstagrammers on here who have not yet read The Hunger Games, I definitely felt a lot of Mean Girls vibes with Kiersten’s character being Regina George. That being said, this book still receives a solid 4 out of 5 stars from me. Kim Liggett is a beautiful writer and wonderful storyteller and this book left me intrigued to read more of her stories.
If you are a fan of The Hunger Games, Mean Girls and The Handmaid’s Tale, this is definitely a book that you should read! Also, if you have already read it, don’t forget to participate in the book discussion with #EmmaAndKelseyMadeMeDoIt on July 27th at 7pm MST on Instagram! 🤗 For more details, visit Instagram and view the profiles of @emmasfavoritebooks and @kelseyandherbooks.
BEER RECOMMENDATION: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett is best paired with Death by Affogato by Oskar Blues Brewery. This delicious coffee porter is brewed with lactose, cacao, vanilla and espresso beans 🍻