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Date finished: June 5, 2019

Rating: ★★★★

The Grace Year, Kim Liggett

The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games, The Grace Year is a memorable dystopian story of the resilience of the female spirit.

When the young women in Tierney James’ county turn 16, they’re banished to a fenced-in reserve on an island where they’re expected to spend 13 cycles of the moon releasing the “magic” into which all girls of this age grow — a period called the grace year.

Before they depart, the eligible men have their pick of the women, and many of them will leave for the year betrothed to a man they barely know who has decided to lay his claim on her. Tierney has other plans for her life, and, unlike most of the young women, she looks forward to a life without a husband or children working with her hands in the fields. But when her friend Michael chooses her to be his bride, the women will depart on a tumultuous grace year filled with drama, danger, love, and murder.

During the grace year, the women are expected to care for themselves using only a county-issued pack each. There’s a well for water, but it doesn’t take long for the well water to start having strange effects on the group, who drinks from it constantly. Kiersten, who had hoped to be chosen as Michael’s bride, quickly convinces the group that her magic is real and she’s powerful enough to control them if she likes. Her manipulation coupled with the effects of the well water leads to a Hunger Games-esque story line in which Tierney is alienated from the women and no one is truly safe from each other — or the poachers lurking just outside the gates hoping to sell the girls’ dead bodies for their “magical” powers.

Liggett does an astounding job drawing the reader in to Tierney’s story, her struggle against the way of life she’s been taught, and her desire for something more than a Handmaid’s Tale-style life of docility and subservience. While I rooted for Tierney, I also rooted for the women who were afraid to speak up for themselves and simply wanted to please their parents and future husbands or bosses. The characters outside of the main group of girls added some fun suspense and romance to the story that really added to the overall plot, and I couldn’t wait to get back to this story each time I put the book down.

Liggett offers us an important new piece of modern feminist fiction, and I recommend this one for fans of dystopian fiction like The Hunger GamesThe Handmaid’s Tale, and Lord of the Flies.

Many thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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