I'm on vacation this week, but wanted to pop in briefly to share...
...I'm about 100 pages into Tana French's The Secret Place (and seriously, how did it take me so long to pick up one of her books, she's SO VERY MUCH up my alley), which is a mystery about a teenaged boy who's found dead on the grounds of an all-girls' boarding school in Dublin.
I just hit this passage, which comes right after one girl tells her friends about a snog gone wrong, and the whole group decides not to "go near any guy ever, till college":
"Oh, God," Julia says. "I can hear it now. They're gonna say we're some kind of lesbian orgy cult."
"So?" Selena says. "They can say what they want. We won't have to care."
A breathtaken silence, as that sinks in. Their minds race wild along its trail. They see Joanne wiggling and giggling and sneering in the Court to make the Colm's guys fancy her, they see Orla howling helpless into her sodden pillow after Andrew Moore and his friends ripped her apart, they see themselves trying desperately to stand right and dress right and say the right things under the guys' grabbing eyes, and they think: Never, never ever, never never never again. Break that open the way superheroes burst handcuffs. Punch it in the face and watch it explode.
My body my mind the way I dress the way I walk the way I talk, mine all mine.
The power of it, buzzing inside them to be unlocked, makes their bones shake.
In just a few lines, the girls realize how much time and energy—and even beyond that, how much of themselves—they devote to looking and acting the way they're supposed to look and act in order to be "attractive"; they acknowledge that in doing so, they're giving up their own youth and their own power; and they walk away from that. At the same time, though, in making this pact, they're also kind of lining themselves up for trouble later on—there are rumors in the present day about one of the girls having a secret romance with the murderee, which suggests that the pact might ultimately cause strife between the girls—and in a way, in denying themselves any contact with boys, they're kind of still making it about the boys. And so, even though it's goosebump-inducingly empowering on the surface, it's way more complicated than that.
It's so, so good so far. There are two timelines—the present, in which two detectives (who have loads of their own baggage) start following a new lead in the as-yet-unsolved case of Chris Harper's murder; and the past, which follows the girls of St. Kilda's, the school where his body was found—there's so much going on in both timelines, meaty characterizations and complex relationship stuff and oh, I'm just loving it.