Daughters of Eve

Daughters of Eve - Lois Duncan Fair warning, this is going to be a long review.Lois Duncan's book "Daughters of Eve" and I share a rather unique history. It started with five words: "You can't read this book." True, this book was one of the top 100 books that were challenged or banned, I think, in its respective age group. My mom was the one who ruled on this one initially for me, though - took it back to the public library the day I checked it out. Long story short - she didn't want me to read a book about a man-hating cult of teens. Now that I think about it, I think those were close to her exact words. :(I had an idea it would turn out to be about a cult mind, but I still wanted to see what became of it and how the presentation would lend. I tried to read it again two years later, only to have someone request it and I had to return it to my library prematurely. I read as far as the part with Tammy and the bleeding candle, which was probably the best eerie imagery this book had to offer. And I had several try/fail efforts at either borrowing or buying the book. Which was the universe's way of trying to tell me "You're not finishing this book."I'm a determined sort, though - usually when someone tells me I can't do something, I find some way of pursuing it - eventually. For a while, I sat on my hands. There was no way that I wasn't going to read this book or mark it as DNF because of the time gap it took for me to resume it again. For one, I've read many of Lois Duncan's books, and she was one of my favorite writers to read while I was in middle school. I wouldn't count out some of her work influencing me in terms of her way of weaving suspense in her writing. That said, after picking up this story 12 years later from where I left off, I'm very happy to have had the chance to read this in full. Unfortunately, in the same breath, I have to say this is the weakest book I've read of Duncan's. Judging from the content, this is not the kind of story that would age well with its respective presentation. Oddly enough, I think my 12-13 year old self would've probably given it the same star grade I'm giving it now. Probably not for all the same collective reasons except for a few - the appeal isn't as strong as some of her other penned works, and it has the kind of ending that doesn't tide over well. It just...stops. No bearing as to the emotional resolutions given some important pieces of information. It felt too clinically detached, and while there were crimes to be had...it felt out of place.I think I understood the angle from where this story's told, collectively speaking. It takes a concept valued among a group of people and seeks to twist the morality lines to where the oppressed become the oppressors, and the judged become just as judgmental under the thumb of a single manipulator. That manipulator, in this case, was a teacher who was so emotionally invested in her students that she sought to control their ways of thinking and acting. That concept in itself could've been very interesting - even horrifyingly brilliant - if it weren't for the haphazard, one-sided execution that plagued this novel. Granted, I know this was written 30 some years ago (as of the time I'm reading this - I have the 90s Library Binding, not the updated story - so no cell phones mentioned here). I can somewhat look through the lens of how social attitudes have changed drastically since then, and try to approach where it's coming from with respect to that time. I could also look through the lens that there are some areas of our society that haven't advanced past these attitudes in contemporary notes. However, it comes across with mixed messages. I'm glad there were characters intelligent enough to get out while they could (Tammy), but I don't think the build up this novel had measured up to establishing what it was trying to illustrate.One of the main problems in the novel's execution: too many POV characters flip flopping from one stretch to the next. Way too many of them. There were ten girls in the Daughters of Eve, there was the teacher's perspective (Irene Stark), and some inserted POVs from some of the parents/families. Perhaps if this book were written from Tammy's perspective only and her ESP played up in some contexts, this could've been a far superior book on one level. On the other hand, I see the merits in writing from some of the vantage points taken on in this novel, but it was just too many for its respective length and development. If the development were a bit more expanded, I'd likely say differently.This is a note that bears repeating: feminism does not equate to man-hating. Feminism does not equate to man-hating. People lean on the misconception so much, even considering contemporary perspectives. I'm not saying that Lois Duncan inferred this in the book, if anything the discussions of inequality with respect to feminine roles in society do have merit here. I hate that the vast majority of the points came from the teacher who had her own agenda to twist eventually as the book's events came to pass. What it probably intended was to show the toggle between extreme viewpoints and how they could go horribly wrong, but there's no balancing/median point in the novel to drive that point home, very little central perspective to keep it in focus. Just about every male character in this book were one-dimensional, single-minded, controlling, stereotypical jerks. I'm being nice by calling them jerks. (I could think of far more vulgar terms.) The real world doesn't work that way. Even if it were attempting to get across a rather jarring point - it's still one-sided. There are some boldly stated misogynistic (even homophobic) passages from the characters here, which, I think their presentation does intentionally paint them in a negative light because of the strong gender clashes and contrasts illustrated in the different lives of the players involved in this work. I do like that there are some characters here that work against those gender biases and attributions - with noted considerations, but it feels heavy handed in its presentation. While the push-push dynamic of those morality lines are there, there’s not a lens to balance and focus it better.The characterizations of the girls weren't much better, but I think that was primarily because there were so many to keep track of and the viewpoint kept shifting at awkward turns. There were very potent portraits of a few of them - Jane with her mother and abusive father, Ruthie for her increasing rebellion against her family and the uneven distribution of her responsibilities and restricted activities/choices. It just didn't pull together in a way that made it more palpable.The ending still upsets me because it comes to an emotional high and then lets down with a generic afterthought of each character, including the teacher - who I think should've faced more moral repercussions, not just the one scene where she's distinctly called out.To the credit of "Daughters of Eve," I think it's a novel that prompts a good deal of discussion about the lapsed moralities that result, but the mixed messages and structure make it a work that doesn't stand firmly on its feet.Overall score: 1.5/5