Looking for a dystopian YA that will chill you to the core? Kim Liggett’s The Grace Year is one of the most harrowing and memorable dystopian storylines to come across bookshelves in recent years.
In Garner County, women have only one purpose. To be wives and bear children, and all hail the patriarchy. In Garner County, men keep women in line through fear. Women are said to possess the potential for diabolical (man-manipulating) magic, and so any sign of
disobedience magic can be spun into an act of witchcraft. Even dreams are of the devil. And what is the cure for a witch? The gallows.
Of course, no one wants a community without
subjects women and women = witches. So, a way has been provided for girls to rid themselves of the magic as it first appears in the sixteenth year of their lives.
The Grace Year.
During this year, girls are sent into the wilderness
to battle for their lives to spend their evil magic. Without much in terms of provisions. While being hunted by poachers. Poachers, because a Grace Year Girl’s magic-imbued body parts, bottled and sold, are worth a fortune.
Nothing about the world into which our protagonist, sixteen-year-old Tierney James, is born is pretty or easy or safe. She lives in a world of brutality and fear, growing up into a life that will soon be either marriage or assigned labor. But even that choice isn’t hers to make. It is the boys, men, old widowers (so gross) who play fate during the Grace Year Ceremony, either lifting a girl’s veil and marking her for marriage or leaving her as leftover to be distributed among the workhouses, should she survive her Grace Year.
And while most girls
dream feverishly hope for the promise of marriage before departing for their Grace Year (red-sin-representing-ribbon braided into their hair), a veil is Tierney worst nightmare. Oh yes, Tierney dreams. In a life of limitations, Tierney longs to remain untethered and work the fields, one of the lowest ranking and harshest jobs her community has to offer.
You can almost smell the spark of rebellion here.
To all, it seems like a safe bet that Tierney will depart for her Grace Year a single woman. After all, the girls outnumber the boys, and Tierney’s otherness has placed her on the fringes of the community. But in a shock twist, someone lifts Tierney’s veil, overthrowing any plans Tierney had for her own future. It is an act of betrayal and one that makes Tierney a dangerous enemy among the Grace Year Girls. One who wouldn’t be all that sad if Tierney didn’t make it back to Garner County alive.
The Grace Year is a powerful and unflinching novel with major themes of oppression, community, and gender roles. Brutality is an ever-present mode of oppression utilized by the men of Garner County, and so, it is present on the pages, too. There are hangings of women in front of a crowd and poachers who skin girls alive. There is a tree filled with body parts. But, there is little gore and few details are given. In a masterful stroke of writing, everything that would undoubtedly lead only to distract from the real horrors at play here has been winnowed away, leaving a haunting piece of prose that tells a most harrowing and memorable tale.
A must-read dystopian thriller that will keep you up way past your bedtime and stay with you long after the final page.
Book: The Grace Year
Published: Del Rey
Publication Date: October 10th, 2019
Age Range: 15 – adult