I lied yesterday.
Writer Wednesday is the second constant in my life, and I’ve been working on this specific post for months and I’m just SO READY FOR IT TO BE HERE.
Have I been vague-tweeting about this for a while? Yes. Do you finally get to read it? YES.
Today’s Writer Wednesday post features Rory Power’s breakout debut novel, Wilder Girls. It’s a survival story–think Lord of the Flies–where a boarding school of girls is infected by the Tox and quarantined. And then Bad Stuff happens and things get really spicy.
It’s seriously one of my favorite books of the year and I want to shove it in everyone’s face! IT’S ALSO F/F SO READ IT TOO.
I hope you’re sufficiently intrigued, because today I have one of those special character interviews for you today! You get to read about the leading ladies of Wilder Girls through over 1800 words of content asking them directly about their story.
Cue my cold sweat.
But this was so fun to write on my part & Rory’s as we collaborated to make this post (felt like writing fanfiction!), so I hope you enjoy! Onwards!
(And stay tuned for a giveaway!)
Vicky doesn’t know where she is.
It’s dark and there are trees around her and something feels . . . off. It’s like the trees in the forest are reaching for her, with their abnormal height and dense covering that blocks all but a sliver of the sun. There’s moss underneath her and patches of irises scattered around.
Standing up, Vicky wanders, cautiously, looking for some sign of human living. It’s quiet around here, almost too quiet, and only the smallest sounds of leaves rustling and suggestion of animals lurking disrupts the air.
It’s very different than the bustle of her hometown. And the wide open spaces and never-ending expanses of sky and ocean.
This forest could have been peaceful, with its massive pines, but it feels wrong, and Vicky knows it as her heart pounds. She begins to walk faster, stumbling over giant roots and colliding with small branches, and then–
A path. Not a game trail, but a distinct path, with rocks placed to fill up potholes and a wide enough lane for a car.
She comes to a stop in the middle of the path, just standing, waiting for something. Although the forest is still as sinister as she thought, something about this path brings a tiny bit of hope to Vicky. A tiny bit of hope that someone else is here, and she didn’t just wake up in a weird, dark forest with no discernible way to go home.
As she tries to decide whether she should follow the path–forward or backward?–or just stay where she is, a figure appears in the distance. Two figures.
One looks like a girl, around Vicky’s age, and another, an older woman. Vicky can tell when they see her, their figures tensing and their approach slowing and the woman’s hand reaching for a gun, which she points at Vicky.
Vicky raises her arms in surrender–what else are you supposed to do when someone points a gun at you?–and waits for them to come closer. She stifles a gasp when she sees them.
The girl has short brown hair, mostly covered by her red hat, but that’s not the surprising part. Vicky tries not to stare at her right eye. It’s fused shut, like the lids started growing together, and there are scars and stitches holding it closed, like someone tore at it to get it open.
The woman is wearing a red scarf, but Vicky is too scared to look away from the gun.
WOMAN: You’re not one of my girls.
VICKY: No, I’m-
WOMAN: Where the hell did you come from? Quarantine is locked tight. If they’re sending someone they could at least-
GIRL: What’s your name?
The girl looks exhausted, dead on her feet, and Vicky doesn’t miss the concern in the woman’s eyes as she glances over at her companion.
VICKY: I’m–I’m Vicky. I’m from Florida, but I just uh, woke up. O-Over there.
Vicky points shakily towards the trees and the direction she came from. She watches the woman and girl share a look. The woman eyes her for a moment, and then holsters her gun.
WOMAN: I’m Welch. This is Hetty.
Hetty waves, but her attention has drifted from Vicky to the woods around them and the path that stretches beyond. It’s quiet, the air thick and pressing in close, leaving them all uneasy.
WELCH: I don’t know how you got here, but I’m afraid you’ll be stuck here for a while. Nobody on or off Raxter without special permission.
VICKY: You said something about a quarantine?
WELCH: Unfortunately the girls have come down with something. The diagnosis isn’t clear, but-
HETTY: We call it The Tox.
She gestures to her eye.
HETTY: I hope you’re not squeamish.
VICKY: O-Okay. Is it contagious or–
Hetty shrugs, but from the glint in her eye, Vicky understands that the risk is there.
WELCH: We need to get back behind the fence. Are you good to move?
Vicky starts, realizing Welch is talking to her.
VICKY: I can come with you? But the quarantine…
HETTY: If you’re here, you’re as good as sick already.
Vicky walks alongside Hetty, following slightly behind Ms. Welch. She notices how both people are tense, glancing around the forest around them. She’s not sure if they’re looking for animals, or something else.
She starts to realize that it might not be good to trust random armed strangers they met, especially ones carrying suspicious looking bags. But it’s not like she can do much, except ask questions.
VICKY: What’s in the bag?
HETTY: Wheat Thins and fucking shampoo. Lucky us.
VICKY: Oh. How long have y’all been here, did you say?
Vicky can tell that Hetty’s not in a big mood to talk, but she wants answers. Hetty sighs, counting slowly on the fingers of one hand.
HETTY: Year and a half. Something like that, anyway.
VICKY: And do y’all grow your own food, or forage, or . . .?
She leaves the question hanging, and Hetty laughs sharply.
HETTY: We take whatever they give us. Or I thought we did.
WELCH: Hetty. Remember what we talked about.
Vicky’s not sure who “they” is, and there’s clearly more going on than Hetty or Welch is willing to share.
HETTY: You should ask Julia and Carson. They know more about this than I do.
HETTY: The rest of the crew.
VICKY: Are they… do they have what you have?
HETTY: You mean my eye? Everybody’s got their own. I’ve never seen the same thing twice.
VICKY: Everybody? How many of you are there?
Hetty hoists the duffel bag higher.
HETTY: Too many.
She hurries after Welch, leaving Vicky to follow. Vicky takes this in, realizing that the small duffel that Hetty is carrying is a majority of the food for all the people here. She can’t imagine this duffel being enough to feed everyone.
She can tell that this is most of what she’s going to get out of Hetty, and walks in silence for the rest of the way.
They approach looming iron gates, connected to a fence that doesn’t seem to end, and there are two girls sitting in front of them. And a dead coyote.
Vicky fights the urge to gag as she walks past the carcass and the flies buzzing around it. The girls stand up. One has bruises lining her arms, and introduces herself as Julia. The other says her name is Carson, holding a cold hand out to shake that’s missing three fingernails.
Vicky shakes it gingerly as Ms. Welch opens the gates, with her keys. Vicky stares at the sharp glass and metal bits lining the fence, as well as the branches of the trees winding their way inside the grounds.
All of the people Vicky is with plaster smiles on their faces after a command from Ms. Welch that Vicky didn’t hear. They pass through the gate single-file, and Vicky’s not so sure if this gate is to keep the woods out, or to keep the people in.
Crossing the yard, they slip through the front doors of the house. Inside, girls chatter and lunge for the duffel that Hetty setts down, but upon seeing Vicky, small whispers and suspicious looks emerge, the sound quieting.
Vicky isn’t sure where to go, because the other girls already walked away, and Ms. Welch is talking to a girl off the side. Another woman emerges near Hetty and another girl and places her hand on Hetty’s shoulder, so Vicky decides to go talk to her to get answers.
She tries to ignore the weight of the other girls’ stares on her, but she can’t help it. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees that it’s not just Hetty and Julia and Carson with changes to their bodies. One girl’s ears are replaced with gills, and another has scars and blisters, all over her body.
Approaching Hetty, the girl she’s with, and the woman, Vicky nervously clears her throat.
VICKY: Am I, uh, supposed to be doing something? Is there someone I should talk to?
The woman turns towards Vicky with an almost motherly smile on her face.
WOMAN 2: You can talk to me. I’m the Headmistress here. Don’t worry, all right? We’ll figure this out.
Vicky is immediately relieved. Headmistress seems calm and in control, her hands steady and her hair pulled back neatly.
HEADMISTRESS: Why don’t you stick with Hetty and Byatt for now? They can look after you as you get settled. After all, they’re old pros at this, aren’t they?
Headmistress looks to Hetty. Byatt must be the girl next to her, with long dark hair and a bright, easy smile.
BYATT: Of course. The more, the merrier.
VICKY: Oh. Okay.
Headmistress leaves and Byatt leans closer to Vicky, angling herself so Vicky can’t see the protrusion of her spine, which she had already glimpsed as she approached.
BYATT: Are you really from past the fence?
Behind her, Hetty sways on her feet, and without looking Byatt reaches out to steady her.
VICKY: I don’t really know. I just woke up in the woods, and now I’m here.
BYATT: You’re gonna be here for a while. So I think the most important thing for you to know is that Landry is the absolute worst.
BYATT: She is! You know I’m right.
Hetty sighs, exasperated, but she’s smiling.
HETTY: Whether you’re right or not isn’t the point.
VICKY: Sorry, but can we go back? Is there really no way for us to leave?
BYATT: At least you’re stuck in my incredible company.
Vicky jumps at the feeling of a hand on her shoulder, a third girl from the staircase behind her. She glances at the hand and there are silvery scales lining it like a glove.
GIRL: Cut it out, Byatt.
The girl comes around Vicky to stand next to Hetty, leaving distance between them. She’s blonde, her long braid almost glows in the dark. Vicky rubs at her eyes and blinks, but the shine doesn’t fade.
REESE: I’m Reese. And yeah. No way to leave.
She raises her eyebrows, like she’s waiting for someone to disagree with her. Hetty glances in her direction, but only for a moment before clenching her jaw and fixing her gaze on a spot just over Vicky’s shoulder.
REESE: You’ll get used to it. We’ve all had to.
Vicky waits for Reese to say something else, but she stays quiet, her arms folded across her chest, silver fingers catching the light. Reese doesn’t seem like someone who says much if she has a choice.
VICKY: I guess I will.
Vicky introduces herself, and her eyes wander between Reese and Hetty. She can feel some tension there between them, but she’s not sure what.
HETTY: Let’s find you a room. There’s plenty of space upstairs.
BYATT: You should get some rest while you can. Welch’ll probably have you on Gun Shift tomorrow.
Reese stays on the ground floor, watching as Hetty and Byatt lead Vicky up.
Vicky really hopes this is just a dream. Or that she’ll wake up tomorrow morning, safe and sound back in her bed. Raxter gives her unsettling vibes, and she’s pretty sure she doesn’t want to stay here.
Something you might not know is that it’s really weird to write in third person about yourself. But I do it every time ahaha. It was so worth it though, and figuring out how to frame this interview was really fun!
It draws a lot of elements from the book (it takes a small segment of the story, incorporates me into it, and then diverges it to include Byatt and Reese) and I hope you got a delicious taste of the Wilder Girls world from this! I love Hetty, Byatt, and Reese and I hope you did too!
If you enjoyed, make sure to let Rory know on her social channels! And also, check out the content warnings on her website at https://itsrorypower.com/wilder-girls/.
More About the Book
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Hardcover, 368 pages
July 9th 2019 by Delacorte Press
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
Please see author’s website for trigger and content warnings.
More About the Author
Rory Power grew up in New England, where she lives and works as a crime fiction editor and story consultant for TV adaptation. She received a Masters in Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia, and thinks fondly of her time there, partially because she learned a lot but mostly because there were a ton of bunnies on campus.
This is seriously one of my favorite reads of the year and I’m–wildly excited for it to come out on the 9th and for you to be able to read it too!
Luckily, I also have an international giveaway (open where Book Depository ships!) where one lucky winner will receive a preorder of Wilder Girls! All you have to do is enter through the Rafflecopter button below–bonus entries on Twitter!
Seriously! I love this book so much (I hope you could tell by the interview!) and I want to shove it in all your faces! This giveaway ends next Tuesday at midnight EST! Good luck & stay alive!