Friday, January 15, 2021

The Grace Year - Kim Liggett

The Grace Year
by Kim Liggett
Published October 8th 2019 by Wednesday Books

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. 

5 Stars

Tierney James is entering her Grace Year, the 16th year of her life when she and the other Grace Year girls are sent away to protect the others from their magic. Grace Year girls leave for the woods knowing if they are to be married, and to whom, or if they'll be returning to work. But Tierney knows something goes on in the woods in that year, because the girls who do return are scarred and gaunt, and sometimes girls don't return at all. With just walls to protect them from the poachers that want to sell their body parts on the black market, Tierney knows she can survive the year, at least she could have until the girls are taken over by their magic. Now the poachers are no longer the biggest threat.

Tierney wasn't made to be veiled, there is no marriage that will ever suit her, she's prepared for a life in the fields, she sees what others don't in the power of work. She is her father's daughter. She's prepared to go along with The Grace Year, to make it through and return to life as she'd like it to be. She has dreams though, dreams that tell her that life could be another way, dreams that mean her magic is too strong. Those dreams keep her going, it lights a fire in her to see things another way, to not believe everything. Tierney questions everything and I so loved her for that. She's a well-developed, smart character and at just 16 she sees what others do not. She questions the misogyny of her community, she questions the power of the Grace Year, and she questions her parents and how they push her to let the feminist in her lie. She's such a powerful character and it was incredible to read about her climb out of the darkness.

The dystopian aspect of The Grace Year isn't that surprising, the story has been done before, but I don't think it has been done so well. Kim Liggett is clever, she's made it a story about the power of females, the power of relationships, the power of knowledge, and the power of internal strength and self-worth. The girls give in to their power, they accept they will leave the walls of their temporary home gaunt, missing body parts, and meek, but it is the overcoming this that is so powerful. Tierney just never quits, not even when she faces enemies from all sides. No, this isn't the dystopian novel that ends with the whole world changing, but it is the groundwork to the change and I really enjoy getting to imagine the future of Tierney, The Grace Year girls, and their community.

I admit I was very skeptical of this book, the cover caught my eye, but the blurb scared me off a bit. I love dystopian novels, but the YA/NA dystopian books were overdone there for a while and I couldn't see how any author could bring something new to the genre. I kept seeing this on bookstagram though and my friend, who had also avoided it, finally picked it up and shared just how incredible of a read it was for her. I still had my worries, but I picked up The Grace Year and I didn't put it down again until the final page. This one was absolutely a case of DO believe the hype.

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