"The pages turn fast and the girls are complex, compelling and written with incredible tenderness. Layden excels at rendering the everyday details of boarding school life." ––New York Times
"Sharp, engrossing."––Town & Country
"An insightful prep school drama"––People
"If Gossip Girl meets Curtis Sittenfield sounds like your jam then All Girls is extremely your jam. [E]ngrossing.”––E!Online
A keenly perceptive coming of age novel for fans of Sally Rooney, Curtis Sittenfeld, and J. Courtney Sullivan, All Girls follows nine young women as they navigate their ambitions and fears at a prestigious New England prep school, all pitched against the backdrop of a scandal the administration wants silenced.
But as the months unfold, and the school's efforts to control the ensuing crisis fall short, these extraordinary girls are forced to discover their voices, and their power.
A tender and unflinching portrait of modern adolescence told through the shifting perspectives of an unforgettable cast of female students, Emily Layden's All Girls explores what it means to grow up in a place that promises you the world––when the world still isn't yours for the taking.
You grow to love a place... and then you grow up.
Layden's incisive debut offers a composite portrait of an exclusive girls' boarding school on the cusp of a long-overdue reckoning with a sexual abuser on the faculty. The novel opens as an incoming first-year student arrives at the Atwater School in fall 2015, and her parents are troubled upon observing a series of signs reading "A Rapist Works Here" posted along the route to the campus. Subsequent chapters are structured around the defining traditions of an Atwater year, from initiation and fall fest to prom and commencement, and each one introduces at least two or three different students. The identity of the teacher who preyed on a student nearly 20 years earlier, prompting the poster campaign and other acts of protest, is eventually revealed, along with the identity of the current student bent on unmasking him. While the short narratives don't really give the reader sufficient time to get to know the characters, they coalesce into an overview of the school's culture, as the students begin to question the official word on the allegations. Notably, the novel is set just before #MeToo, creating an astute snapshot of a venerable institution being pulled, however unwillingly, into its future. Layden succeeds at bringing the effects of an institutional cover-up into sharp relief.
If you want a fun, light read for the summer, don’t read this. Not what I expected, and way too deep. I’m sure she’s a good writer, just not for me.