Be Free: A Review of The Grace Year

43263520. sy475 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.

This book gave me a lot of feelings, and not all of them were necessarily good.

I’ll start with the positives!

I really loved the world building in this story. Our setting is something similar to The Village, with a whole lot of Handmaid’s Tale mixed in. The rules of this world are similar to both stories, as well. Don’t go into the woods, lest ye be poached. Obey the men. Don’t have dreams.

The girls are all rounded up in their sixteenth year to “release” their magic into the wild, otherwise the men become bewitched or something. Only Teirney, our main character, doesn’t feel magical. She just wants to survive her grace year, come home, and work in the fields. She doesn’t want a husband to wait for her to come home. She doesn’t want to bear children. She wants her freedom.

That’s all well and good.

But then things get really freakin’ murky.

Kiersten, the mean girl (because there’s always a mean girl), claims her magic gift is making people do whatever she wants them to do. She claims this on their way to the encampment where they’re supposed to spend the next thirteen months.

There’s a LOT that happens at the encampment, but without going into major spoiler territory, this part sticks out the most to me as something that doesn’t line up properly.

Plus, the poachers. Why are they the way they are? Who are they? What does their near cannibalism even mean? Maybe it’s because I so wanted this to be an incredible story about feminism that can carry over to now, but…it fell short.

While there are some super important themes in this story, it fell a bit flat. I give The Grace Year 3 out of 5 red flowers. Thank you to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for providing a copy in exchange for review.

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