Kate Riordan fears two things as she grows up in the small Appalachian town of Swan River: that she’ll be a frustrated townie forever or that she’ll turn into one of the mysterious and terrifying wild girls, killers who start fires and menace the community. Struggling to better her chances of escaping, Kate attends the posh Swan River Academy and finds herself divided between her hometown—and its dark history—and the realm of privilege and achievement at the Academy. Explosive friendships with Mason, a boy from the wrong side of town, and Willow, a wealthy and popular queen bee from school, are slowly pulling her apart. Kate must decide who she is and where she belongs before she wakes up with cinders at her fingertips.
Mary Stewart Atwell has written a novel that is at once funny and wise and stunningly inventive. Her wild girls are strange and fascinating creatures—a brilliant twist on the anger teenage girls can feel at their powerlessness—and a promise of the great things to come from this young writer.
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Reading Group Guide
Kate Riordan’s hometown of Swan River is a mysterious place, plagued by a history of murderous young women that the locals call “wild girls.” Officials have been excusing their dangerous behavior for centuries, but rumors swirled about ordinary teenage girls suddenly able to fly or throw flames from their fingertips. Having grown up with these stories, Kate just wants to make it through boarding school without being turned into a wild girl so that she can escape to a picturesque college campus up north.
Kate isn’t exactly the kind of student Swan River Academy usually gets. She can only afford it because her mother is the school secretary, while most of the other girls are from posh towns and established families. Divided between two very different worlds, Kate becomes tangled up in two unusual and unstable friendships that will bring those worlds together and change hers irrevocably.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1.Kate’s friendship with Willow goes through many ups and downs. Why is it so difficult see more