Wilder Girls is set in the Raxter School for Girls which has been quarantined ever since the Tox hit.
The Tox is a mysterious illness that inflicts the girls on the island in a variety of ways. One girl grows silvery scales and talons on her hands, another has glowing hair, and some have jutting bones breaking through their skin.
The only male inhabitant of the island has a much different reaction from the women. The students and the female staff of the school experience bodily metamorphosis but maintain their mental faculties. The groundskeeper, however, is forced into exile in the woods to protect the girls, his daughter among them, from his descent into bestial rage.
Food is shipped over from the mainland routinely by the government and only a select group of girls are permitted outside of the school’s gates to collect it and bring it back.
Humans are not the only ones afflicted on the island, the animals too have started to mutate and are increasingly dangerous.
Periodically the girls will experience “Flare-ups” which intensify the Tox’s effects on them. Some of them are taken into a separate wing of the school to recover and never return.
When the best friend of our protagonist, Hetty, disappears from the school Hetty resolves to find her and the mystery begins to unfold.
Wilder Girls is a fantastic mix of grotesque metamorphosis, intense teenage friendships and survival drama. It is a very original Young Adult book that is suited for older teens and adult readers of Fantasy and Horror.
I read a review of Wilder Girls describing it as “feminist horror” which, I certainly agree, is a very apt way of summing up the novel.