Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Survive the year. No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden. In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. 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 a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.
Holy moly, I’ve got to say this is one fantastic YA. I was instantly hooked to The Grace Year on page one. I don’t know if this is the first book in a series, but if it’s not, it ABSOLUTELY should be. Born into a strict, patriarchal society, Tierney’s purpose in life is to marry to the man who chooses her, or to be banished from the city to work as a labourer. As a woman, she has no rights, no agency, no permission to hold an opinion. She can hold no authority in her city, or take on a profession. Her existence is one of servitude, as are the lives of every woman in the city. The one moment of freedom they are allowed is the singular grace year. There is one rule surrounding this year: no one talks about the grace year. All the girls know is that each spring, another batch of girls returns home, emaciated, feral, disfigured. Some don’t return home at all.
Leading up to Tierney’s year, she is haunted by the sight of a peculiar red flower. It appears in her dreams, in the streets, on the gallows when a woman is hung. Tierney feels in her bones that this flower has some kind of meaning, but has no one she can ask. Her world condemns the usurper and one whisper of dissent or rebellion could send her to her death.
Then comes the grace year.
Free of the restriction of their societal prison, the girls can embrace all the freedom they ever wanted. But freedom comes at a price. The woods are full of poachers and the girls are in a fight for survival. This story is a tragic tale of women’s rights, rebellion, feminine agency, and coming of age. The characters are ruthless and fearsome. They are often without mercy as their world has been cruel to them. However, at the root of this story is hope, love, compassion, stubbornness, and survival. I say that I wish for more of this story, because The Grace Year, while so intense and vast, only scratches the surface of what this world has to offer. I want to see vengeance, to embrace dissent, and to see the patriarchy fall.
Tierney is a powerful leader. She is intelligent, resourceful, forgiving, strong, and unashamed. She is everything she is told she shouldn’t be. I hope to read more about her and to see how she continues to grow and triumph.
YA fans, I’d encourage you to pick up your copy of The Grace Year asap. You’re going to love it.