Welcome to another LGBTQ book review! All reviews touch on genre/plot, tropes (if any), quality of LGBTQ content, and avoid most spoilers. Catch up on my last book review of The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. You can find all LGBTQ book reviews here.
LGBTQ Book, Wilder Girls: Light spoilers
Wilder Girls is a YA sci-fi/horror novel that involves a quarantined school of schoolgirls. A mysterious disease unleashes on the school grounds, infecting and killing many. For those it does not kill, it morphs bodies biologically. (This is the horror part.) (Yes, it was kind of gross, but not too much to not continue reading.)
The main character, Hetty, and at least one side character is sapphic. The other side character uses the label “queer.” Our protagonist from Wilder Girls never uses a label for herself. Her interest in men (and other genders) is unknown.
LGBTQ content assessment
It’s not the best display of queer representation I’ve ever seen in a YA novel, but I don’t have any big red flags to air out either. There’s no internalized homophobia, no consequences to being queer from authorities. Seems relatively accepted in the world of the book. The story also never centers queer identities. Wilder Girls very much adopts a “normalizing” strategy with queerness in the novel.
LGBTQ Book, Wilder Girls Rating: Spoilers Ahead
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Wilder Girls, but I can safely say the LGBTQ content wasn’t problematic. It does include something of a love triangle, but not in the ways you think.
Our main characters, Hetty and Byatt, are best friends. They’ve known each other a long time, and in the face of being quarantined for over a year, find comfort in one another. They share a bed every night. Enter our canon queer character: the third wheel to the besties. Poor third-wheeler thinks Hetty and Byatt are in love, which isn’t the case.
Personally, I really appreciate the “are the best friends in love or are they just best friends” storyline because I had a phase where everyone thought my best friend and I were dating, despite the fact I was in a 8-year long relationship and then got married. Sapphic friendships can be extremely close and intimate (and honestly, even romantic) in ways that heterosexual people are not evolved enough for. (It’s a joke.) (Mostly.)
Wilder Girls certainly showcases the power and intensity of friendships, and goes so far as to show how that might not be the healthiest. (Up to the reader to judge that one.) The book seemed more about this friendship than any sapphic romantic side plots, but that was fine by me.
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