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.
I wasn’t sure about this one. But, I found out it was queer and the more I heard about it, the more I wanted to read it. I knew there would be a creepy bear, a creepy deer, a deadly disease, and a bunch of girls trapped in a school on an island. It sounded like a pretty good combination! I would like to note that this book is very, very intense. Trigger warnings: suicide, self harm, forest horror?/body horror, gore.
This story seeps into your conscious and makes itself at home. You can’t stop thinking about it once you get into it. It’s brutal, it’s horrifying, and it’s wild (haha, I couldn’t help myself). These characters draw you in and make you care about them. The plot progresses at a pace that leaves you breathless and questioning everything.
I knew this book would be horror, but I wasn’t expecting to be as intense as it was. I wasn’t expecting to be as uncomfortable as I was in the beginning. The story throws you headfirst into the first chapter and it doesn’t stop until the last page. Situation after situation comes up. I couldn’t even dwell on the things I didn’t think I like because new things kept happening. And by the time I came back to those things, they were resolved or there was an explanation that made perfect sense.
The characters are messy and complicated it. I wasn’t expecting to see so much emotional depth from a fantasyish horror story. Hetty, Byatt, and Reese are so unapologetic in their feelings. They feel things strongly. They are young and they have been through so much trauma. Their actions and thoughts reflect that. Their realistic and I loved it.
I was expecting more forest elements and for more of the story to take place in the forest. Despite this, I still feel like I know the woods around Raxter very well. Its filled with animals changed into something way more frightening and a forest that seems to have a mind of its own. This isn’t like other survival stories I’ve read.
I want to talk more about the Tox. But everything I want to say is spoilers. But the plot twists kept coming until the last page. Everything made sense at the very end and I marveled at how it came together. It almost seems flippant how its done and I think its an interesting way to do such a big reveal. This allows the story to have an aspect of body horror. It was interesting to see how it manifested in all aspects. I’m looking forward to screaming about other people about it.
The ending was such a mixture of heartbreaking, confounding, and horrifying. It was so good, but so sad. I think I get what the author was trying to do. Just thinking about it, I’m amazed and stunned with what happened. It’s so different and so forthcoming. It’s not afraid to do the thing that will leave readers questioning what the heck just happened.
Thank you for reading!