All Girls

St. Martin’s. Feb. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781250270894. $27.99. F
DEBUT Set in the privileged world of a 200-year-old Connecticut girls’ boarding school, Layden’s debut tells the story of teens’ coming of age in the era of #MeToo. A rape accusation from 1995 has put Atwater in the news, but not in a good way for an institution that relies on its reputation. The novel is told from numerous girls’ viewpoints, a technique that can be confusing but also demonstrates how some of the girls are less privileged and how underneath their outwardly perfect lives lie secrets and tragedy. Like all teenagers, the girls are learning about their own burgeoning sexuality while dealing with the failings and hypocrisy of the adults around them. The adult perspective comes through only via a few formal emails. As the book progresses, readers learn more about the possible rape and rapist, but it is never entirely clear what happened. What becomes obvious, however, is that the school, and society, have long preferred to protect its own reputations and comfortable beliefs rather than the vulnerable.
VERDICT An important take on sexuality and #MeToo from the perspective of the young, including many references to pop culture and social media.
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