On My Bookshelf: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

March 16, 2020

In The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, Tierney, refuses to conform to her society and the expectations of the girls’ grace year, the year that marks the change from girl to woman and is spent separate from the rest of the community because of superstitions about the power of the “magic” possessed by young women of this age. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
The basic plot from Amazon: 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. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. 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.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

In The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, Tierney, refuses to conform to her society and the expectations of the girls’ grace year, the year that marks the change from girl to woman and is spent separate from the rest of the community because of superstitions about the power of the “magic” possessed by young women of this age. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Why I liked it: I've been binging on dystopian fiction, and while The Grace Year Kim Leggitt fit right in with reads like The Initiation by Chris Babu and Divergent by Veronica Roth, it also stood apart as a book I could not put down. I started reading it at bedtime (always a mistake) and didn't want to stop, I tried to keep reading during breakfast with my three little ones (little progress made there), but then sat down to read a little more after getting home from the gym, and, two hours later, found myself finishing the book.

Comparisons have been made with The Grace Year and classics like The Handmaid's Tale and Lord of the Flies, and I'd add The Crucible to that list due to the impact of hysteria and mob mentality on the plot. While set in a far off world, The Grace Year is a mirror of the cruelty young women can inflict upon each other in our own society.

The grace year marks the change from girl to woman and is spent separate from the rest of the community because of superstitions about the power of the “magic” possessed by young women of this age. The main character, Tierney, refuses to conform to her society and the expectations of the girls’ grace year. Tierney tries to do the right thing even when the other girls in her grace year turn against her.
Classroom application: I would recommend this book for high school and up because of some of the violence, sexual encounters, and mature themes. Besides connecting well with classics like Lord of the Flies, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Crucible, this novel would spark rich discussion about perceptions of females in today’s society. Students could also catalog the survival skills that Tierney possesses and create their own guide to surviving a year in the wilderness.

The novel is rich with symbolism which would also generate rich discussion. Tierney and her family represent the enlightenment, bringing practical medicine into their community. After Tierney and the other girls return from their grace year, Michael’s acceptance and forgiveness of Tierney’s pregnancy and the support of the other girls are signs that their community is changing for the good.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Grace Year for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

In The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, Tierney, refuses to conform to her society and the expectations of the girls’ grace year, the year that marks the change from girl to woman and is spent separate from the rest of the community because of superstitions about the power of the “magic” possessed by young women of this age. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.

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