A group of schoolgirls go off with two teachers on a field trip to the English countryside. They soon discover that the nearby town offers alcohol, drugs, and sex, at once tempting and terrifying. In this illicit, raw new world, isolated from the larger society and its familiar rules and repressions, some become more vulnerable, others more vicious. There are the almost casual daily cruelties the girls inflict on one another, the dangerous fault lines of their friendships, their insecurities and little shames, the awful power of the "most popular" girl and of the "in crowd." The sexual and social pressures that can break a girl emotionally and even physically and mark her forever are freshly and chillingly observed. Many readers will be reminded of Lord of the Flies. In Special, too, the shell of civilization is paper-thin, and the looming implosion of a tiny society inspires dread.
It is not the unfamiliar countryside but the untried emotional landscape these girls must negotiate that proves difficult and disturbing and leads to a shattering conclusion. This is a spellbinding, haunting novel by a brilliant young writer.
by Bella Bathurst
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