I am QUOTING MYSELF because I am pretty sure I still can’t say much of anything about September Girls other than what I tweeted about it.
Still, I tried, for work, and this is what the WORD newsletter said I thought about it: “Nothing about Bennett Madison’s sun-soaked story it as it seems — not the small town where its narrator, Sam, spends his summer; not the Girls, mysterious and blonde, who are all drawn to Sam; not the things that are strange about the Girls, like why they name themselves things like Nalgene and watch game shows whenever they aren’t working. Sleekly subversive and quietly brilliant, September Girls does entirely new things with an old myth, transforming a story you might think you know into a beautiful YA novel that slips effortlessly between genres.”
But there’s more, see, and part of that more is this: I read a LOT of YA. Once upon a time, it was my job to read the slush pile. Before and after that, I just read it because I loved it, even when I didn’t really even know it was a thing (my obsession in college was all about story and identity and boy howdy does YA have a lot to say about that).
I don’t read YA to be surprised. (I don’t really do anything to be surprised, honestly. It’s nice and all but not my main narrative need, not by a long shot). This book surprised me, and not in the BANG POW kind of way, but in the way where it sneaks in, something you soak in while you’re reading, and then you look up at the end and it’s not just something that you can can get up and walk away from, because it’s left a mark, wrinkled fingers and tan lines and a thin line of blood where something sharp got at you while you were walking through what you thought was easy territory.
It’s not easy. It can be, but it isn’t. There’s magic in that illusion, making it seem like this easy summer read and then slipping - not pulling - the rug out from under you so very, very gracefully.