My favorite podcast is Teen Creeps – a podcast that reads classic YA pulp fiction like Christopher Pike, LJ Smith, and a host of other stories that we definitely found in our school libraries. The hosts, Kelly Nugent and Lindsay Katai, are hilarious and have definitely gotten me excited to go back and read some old favorites. They have covered multiple books by Lois Duncan, who I read a ton of back in the day, but they didn’t inspire me to pick LoDunc back up until they did Daughters of Eve.
I was OBSESSED with this book in 8th grade. I thought there was something supernatural about the bond between the girls in the club, and liked the idea of invoking powerful words to create an unbreakable circle of secrets. Like any teenager, of course.
The girls at Modesta High School feel like they’re stuck in some anti-feminist time warp-they’re faced with sexism at every turn, and they’ve had enough. Sponsored by their new art teacher, Ms. Stark, they band together to form the Daughters of Eve. It’s more than a school club-it’s a secret society, a sisterhood. At first, it seems like they are actually changing the way guys at school treat them. But Ms. Stark urges them to take more vindictive action, and it starts to feel more like revenge-brutal revenge. Blinded by their oath of loyalty, the Daughters of Eve become instruments of vengeance. Can one of them break the spell before real tragedy strikes?
Now, I had a copy with the original text but I have no idea what happened to it. My current copy that I read is updated to match the times and I can’t help but be disappointed by that. The context of the struggle between the sexes from the late 70s did not entirely ring true now. It made every male in the book infinitely worse if the entire town was still treating women the way they did. There was barely a redeeming male in the books purely because of the modern context. It makes the men evil and the women psychotic. No joke. In the original context, they are all much more sympathetic.
Part of what makes this story so good though is focusing on who the real enemy is – the system. The girls, led by a very fucked up teacher, begin to focus on individuals. That’s when things go off the rails and it becomes a thriller. How far will they go? Will they hurt someone else because they are also hurt? What is too far, and will they keep secrets?
This is a fantastically campy read and a classic LoDunc novel. I enjoyed it again as an adult, having experienced both the deep bonds of female friendship and desire to fight for one another, as well as the wonderful worlds of both casual and violent sexism. It’s both a critique of fake feminism as well as a fantasy of vengeance. I remember not liking Ms. Stark the first time around because I felt that I could not trust her – Tammy had been my favorite character and I trusted Tammy’s instincts. This time around, Ms. Stark made me actively angry. The kind of person that I would actively fight against in the real world for hurting progress, and would basically renounce as the worst kind of white feminism, especially when she talks about the school she worked at in Chicago (for all her updating, LoDunc is the WORST about race – it is a legitimate critique of her work.)
For me it’s 4 stars when viewed from it’s original publication time because it’s a time warp, and a lesson. It’s one of her best books though, and I recommend it to any YA pulp fan.
Also, please please please, listen to Teen Creeps. Or join their Patreon. They are the BEST.