Survive the year.
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 was recommended to me by Alana @ The Bookish Chick. She and I are always sharing book recommendations back and forth. She absolutely loved this one, so I thought I would too. While I did really enjoy this book, there were a few things I didn’t love.
I really liked the concept of the story. A girl living in a society that treats her more like an object than a person. Women have a role and they are not to stray from that role. If they do, they may potentially be burned alive, hanged, or something else equally horrifying. It honestly made me so angry. But I think that means the author was successful with her writing. She really provoked some emotions from me.
I was fascinated by the mystery of the grace year. (Also, I’d like to know exactly how many times that phrase appeared in the book.) No one talks about the grace year, despite everyone over a certain age having gone through it. Then it’s time for Tierney and the others her age to go for their grace year. The idea is that they go away and expel all of their ‘womanly magic’ so that when they return it’s time to settle down and give their husbands children.
Things got a little wild from here. All of the facts behind the grace year were actually pretty fucked up. I think the author did so well with the drama and suspense during the time the girls are on their grace year. I was confused and dying to know what was actually going on. But I was also infuriated at the actions of some of the girls. I don’t often wish characters would die, but I texted Alana several times (in all capitals) wishing death on one particular character. The characters had such interesting personalities and they were pretty well developed. There were reasons why they acted the way they did.
Let’s talk about the romance. I didn’t like it at first, but then I loved it. Two people from completely different worlds, coming together? Who doesn’t love that? I hated how it ended though. That’s all I’ll say about that. The author did our love interest dirty and I don’t appreciate it, but I understand why it was needed for the way the story ended.
The final thing I didn’t like was parts of the ending. I went into this story thinking that Tierney was going to fuck some shit up and change everything about the way her people live. But she didn’t do this. She has the chance to spill everything about the grace year, to get the truth out there. But she doesn’t. She just keeps it between herself and the other girls of her grace year. She takes her role as wife and eventually mother. This really just annoyed me because what the hell was the point of the whole story if she wasn’t going to fix her horrifying society?
Despite this, I ended up liking the ending. She finds a nice partnership with her husband and I appreciated that. She also learns some things about a side mystery that’s been going on and I really loved that part.
Overall, this book was a wild ride. I loved the characters. I loved more of the story. I really enjoyed all the ideas and conversations explored in this story. The writing was compelling and I just couldn’t get enough. I actually stayed up until almost 3am so I could finish this book in one sitting.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.