Sugar and spice and scars for life: Girlhood by Cat Clarke
Girlhood is a dark and emotional YA novel about friendship, grief, and whether things are really as they seem. Harper goes to a boarding school in a remote part of Scotland, but she hasn’t always: before, she lived at home with her twin sister Jenna and her parents. After her sister’s death, however, she went to Duncraggan Academy and found a tight group of friends who have her back. When new girl Kirsty turns up, it seems like somebody might understand the secrets Harper keeps hidden. Kirsty is not quite as she seems, though, and Harper finds herself falling down a hole, unsure who she is anymore and what is true.
Clarke’s novel is gripping, exactly the kind to read in a day or two, devouring the narrative. It is full of emotional tension, dealing with teenage problems of all sizes whilst also having a thriller-like sense of mystery. Harper’s first person narration gives an insight into someone dealing with guilt and grief, and how these issues help to blind her to the lies that start to appear. The intense friendships throughout the novel feel very real and varied, showing how groups of friends can be very different people and still get along, whereas when somebody seems exactly the same, that may not be the case after all. Indeed, they are the kind of characters that make the reader want to continue reading after the words are over and find out what they do next as they grow up. Harper and her best friend Rowan’s relationship in particular was a highlight, showing how falling out doesn’t stop a person caring and how sometimes the stakes end up bigger than realised.
Girlhood is a fantastic novel, not only for teenagers but for anyone who enjoys books centred on tension and female friendships. It is incredibly difficult to put down and manages to deal with big issues in a light and often funny way whilst also having a darkly compulsive narrative.