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  • Writer's pictureJudith Revenberg

The Grace Year | Book Review

Updated: Aug 20, 2023

Feminism with a hint of God.


In 2019 The Grace Year by Kim Liggett was published and back then, my Instagram got flooded with people hyped about this new YA novel. Naturally, I got curious. I read it halfway through 2020 but never got to writing a proper review about it, even though I did feel like my opinion of it was a bit different than that of others. So, in the spirit of better late than never, here it is.


Synopsis

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett takes place in Garner County. Here, 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 (Goodreads).


My score

★★★☆☆


My opinion

Beware of minor spoilers.

This book consisted of a lot of things I usually thoroughly enjoy. A strong female lead, a dystopian-esque setting, and a protagonist that rebels against the norms set for her by society. But somehow, this novel didn't quite do it for me. Tierney is perhaps too relatable. Too much of a tomboy, too much 'I don't want to be like other girls, I'm different.' Because of this, I found her quite annoying from early on in the book, something that didn't really change throughout. And as a result, the events that happened later were, because of the character trope's predictability, not all that surprising to me.

Additionally, the pace of the novel is quite slow. It takes place over the course of over a year. There is a romantic subplot with one of the poachers that felt a bit forced to me - I would've been perfectly happy if it had remained a subplot of them becoming friends instead - and the way Tierney stood out compared to the other girls just kind of got on my nerves. I get it: she's smart, she knows things they don't, she can get them through the Grace Year if they just work together. I'd just hoped she would become more than that but was sadly left disappointed.

“That’s the problem with letting the light in — after it’s been taken away from you, it feels even darker than it was before." - The Grace Year, Kim Liggett

Now: don't get me wrong. I think that Liggett has shaped a fascinating world. I solidarity between women suppressed by men, the subtle seeds of change that start to emerge around the end, the quiet opposition they pose to the life they're forced into - these are all things I really loved. The entire concept of the novel was very strong, and the world-building was done beautifully. Because of this, I still rate this novel three stars. However, I can't ignore my issues with the protagonist, so three stars it remains.


About the author

Kim Liggett, originally from the rural midwest, moved to New York City to pursue a career in the arts. She's the author of Blood and Salt, Heart of Ash, The Last Harvest (Bram Stoker Award Winner), The Unfortunates, and The Grace Year. Kim spends her free time studying tarot and scouring Manhattan for rare vials of perfume and the perfect egg white cocktail (Goodreads).

 

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