The Grace Year (ARC) by Kim Liggett

Set to release on October 8th, 2019, The Grace Year by Kim Liggett is a deeply suspenseful book that brilliantly explores the high cost of a misogynistic world that denies women power and autonomy. Through sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they must make in-between.

DISCLAIMER: Thank-you to Raincoast Books for providing me with an Advance Readers’ Edition of The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, in exchange for an honest review. 

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden. Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive. Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life-a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other. 

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The Grace Year by Kim Liggett is the kind of novel that you read with yourheart-in-your-throat, desperate to know what comes next, but afraid to turn the page at the same time. At its core, The Grace Year is an action-driven story that’s equal parts horror-laden fairy tale, survival story, romance, and resistance manifesto – and Liggett manages all this quite handily, delivering a quality story that never feels like too much of one thing.

“I have to remind myself -the dresses, the red ribbons, the veils, the ceremonies- they’re all just distractions to keep our minds off the real issue at hand. The grace year. My chin begins to quiver when I think of the year ahead, the unknown, but I plaster on a vacant smile, as if I’m happy to play my part, so I might return and marry and breed and die. But not all of us will make it home…not in one piece.” – Kim Liggett, The Grace Year (ARC)

Tierney James’ character, the atmospheric writing, and the boldness of the story are just a few things I loved about The Grace Year. Tierney’s character challenges the other girls and women to better themselves, often facing down tyranny from her fellow Grace Year girls in scenes entirely reminiscent of experiences that most females have encountered at some point and time during their teenage years. Despite this, she never abandons her fellow girls, standing by – and even saving them – no matter how horribly they treated one another. Tierney also never wavers in her convictions – nor does she waver in her anger, resentment, and need for revenge against the men who put her and the others in this situation to begin with. Furthermore, Liggett’s writing is exemplary. The Grace Year takes place in is a dystopian type setting, but the reader could easily be drawn into the believable nature of the weorld Liggett brought to life in her writing. Liggett is also bold and fearless in her story, not shy away from the hard truths of what it means to be a woman – in any society, real or imagined. There are some really hard, horrifying, things that happen in The Grace Year, but Liggett never fails to show the reader just how brutal and terrifying the truth is – even if it means there won’t be a happily ever after for all the girls.

“The things we do to girls. Whether we put them on pedestals only to tear them down, or use them for parts and holes, we’re all complicit in this.” – Kim Liggett, The Grace Year (ARC)

My only major complaint about The Grace Year is that I felt like the story progressed entirely too quickly, especially at certain points. This acceleration of time progression was not always clear, so I often found myself questions just how much time had actually passed between sections. Juxtaposed with periods of slower time progression, wherein Liggett focused on important events, this understandably became a bit confusing. Moreover, I found myself more than a little surprised when the end of the Grace Year arrived – simply because I had not realized how much time had passed.

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Overall, Liggett crafted something really special with The Grace Year. Early readers have compared it to a hybrid of The Handmaids Tale and Lord of the Flies, and after reading, I heartily agree with them. Despite some pacing issues, Liggett crafted strong female characters, a terrifyingly real dystopian nightmare, and explored the harsh realities of life as a female in any reality, all the while keeping readers hanging on to her ever word. So pick up The Grace Year when it hits shelves in October – without a doubt, you will find yourself desperate to know what comes next, but afraid to turn the page at the same time (4/5).

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