Women are submissive, girls are pitted against each other, and misogyny is the governing principle in this heavy-handed mash-up of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games, and Lord of the Flies. Clever narrator Tierney James lives in a community where men hold absolute power over women, who greatly outnumber them; a woman’s only value is as a wife, unmarried women are sent to workhouses and fields, and punishments (hanging, sexual slavery) are doled out on a whim. When young women turn 16, they embark on their Grace Year—banishment to an isolated compound to purify themselves of their “magic” before returning to forced marriage or work. As Tierney begins her Grace Year, she and the others must survive with few resources while poachers prowl the compound’s perimeter, hoping to rape and dismember captured girls (they’ll bottle and later sell their parts, which are believed to possess magical, medicinal powers). After Tierney is banished from the group by a cruel ringleader, she falls for a kindhearted poacher, whose interest in her threatens his position. Though the prose is evocative and the pacing well done, gratuitous violence and flimsy characters eclipse what seems like intended commentary on women’s perpetuation of misogyny. Ultimately, the many malignant forces at work in this bloody, over-the-top novel fail to become more than the sum of their parts. Ages 14–up. Agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary & Media. (Sept.)
"Liggett's immersive storytelling effortlessly weaves horror elements with a harrowing and surprising survival story. Profound moments lie in small details, and readers' hearts will race and break right along with the brave, capable Tierney's. The biggest changes often begin with the smallest rebellions, and the emotional conclusion will resonate. Chilling, poignant, haunting, and unfortunately, all too timely." Kirkus (Starred Review)
"Beautiful, devastating, and deeply moving, THE GRACE YEAR is a testament to the power of finding your voice and speaking your truth. This story of hope and resistance reminds us of what authoritarians and strongmen throughout history have always fearedthat a single light in the darkness calls all other lights to shine, that a lone whisper can give rise to a thundering chorus. This haunting, lyrical book is required reading, full stop." Samira Ahmed, New York Times Bestselling author of Internment and Love, Hate & Other Filters
"A visceral, darkly haunting fever dream of a novel and an absolute page-turner. Liggett's deeply suspenseful book brilliantly explores the high cost of a misogynistic world that denies women power and does it with a heart-in-your-throat, action-driven story that's equal parts horror-laden fairy tale, survival story, romance, and resistance manifesto. I couldn't stop reading." Libba Bray, New York Times bestselling author of The Diviners and A Great and Terrible Beauty
"A dark fairy tale of a book that speaks to the time that we live in." Kelly Link, author of Get In Trouble
"The Grace Year seethes with love and brutality, violence and hope. It is a remarkable and timely story of the bonds between women, the cost of breaking those bonds, and the courage it takes to defy a patriarchy intent on crushing feminine strength. Everyone should read this book." Sabaa Tahir, #1 New York Times bestselling author of An Ember in the Ashes
"The Grace Year is a book for every woman who has ever screamed at the top of her lungs and still felt like no one heard her. A book for every person who has ever been made to feel small or less than. A book for all of us who have been told to sit down and be silent, to grin and bear. Tierney's captivating story reminded me that sometimes existing is itself an act of braveryand this book's existence is an act of courage that I'm very grateful for. Brutally smart, devastatingly lyrical, and so capital i-Important, I want everyone to read this book!" Jasmine Warga, internationally bestselling author of My Heart and Other Black Holes and Other Words for Home
"It is a top ten book of the year for sure and maybe the best YA novel this year. If you like The Handmaid's Tale and Vox, this book is for you." Red Carpet Crash
Gr 9 Up—At the age of 16, all girls are banished so that they can release their magic, which "lures men from their beds, makes boys lose their minds, and drives the wives mad with jealousy." Before they are sent away, the chosen girls are given a veil signifying that they will be married when—and if—they return. Tierney dreads this "grace year." She has no desire to be married. She has seen the condition of the girls who return. She has no fear of the menial labor she will be assigned if not chosen as a bride. She does receive an unwanted veil and leaves with the rest of the girls and the guards who are to protect them from the poachers who will kill them, dissect them, and sell what's left of them back to the settlement as medicine. The poachers are dangerous, but so are the dynamics of the girls themselves as they fight one another and struggle to survive. This dark tale, often reminiscent of William Golding's Lord of the Flies and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, is both disturbing and uplifting. The cruelty shown by self-appointed leader Kiersten contrasts starkly with Tierney's desire to maintain peace and keep everyone alive. When Tierney is forced out of the encampment and must survive on her own, her resourcefulness proves that magic is not all that they were told it was. While main characters are well drawn, minor characters lack real development. The plot, often harsh and violent, builds to a surprising conclusion, a paean to feminism in some respects. VERDICT This is a novel that will appeal to those who like dark stories with fairy-tale elements; highly recommended as a book group discussion choice.—Janet Hilbun, University of North Texas, Denton
A rebellious 16-year-old is sent to an isolated island for her grace year, when she must release her seductive, poisonous magic into the wild before taking her proper place as a wife and child bearer.
In gaslit Garner County, women and girls are said to harbor diabolical magic capable of manipulating men. Dreaming, among other things, is forbidden, and before girls embark on their grace year, they hope to receive a veil, which promises marriage. Otherwise, it's life in a labor house—or worse. Strong, outdoorsy, skeptical Tierney James doesn't want to be married, but a shocking twist leaves her with a veil—and a dangerous enemy in the vindictive Kiersten. Thirty-three girls with red ribbons symbolizing sin woven into their braids set out to survive the island, but it won't be easy. Poachers, who trade in the body parts of grace-year girls, surround the camp, and paranoia, superstition, and mistrust rule. Not everyone will make it home alive. The bones of Liggett's (The Unfortunates, 2018, etc.) tale of female repression are familiar ones, but her immersive storytelling effortlessly weaves horror elements with a harrowing and surprising survival story. Profound moments lie in small details, and readers' hearts will race and break right along with the brave, capable Tierney's. The biggest changes often begin with the smallest rebellions, and the emotional conclusion will resonate. All characters are assumed white.
Chilling, poignant, haunting, and, unfortunately, all too timely. (Dystopian. 14-18)