John Murray has acquired Emily Layden's debut All Girls, already optioned by HBO, exploring assault, consent and "what it means to be a young female in today’s world".
Becky Walsh, commissioning editor, bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Kerry Nordling at St Martin’s Press and will publish in February 2021.
All Girls is set in an all-girls boarding school in a hilly corner of New England. The synopsis reads: "The students are smart and driven; they are also teenagers learning to find their way. When they arrive on campus for the start of the new school year, the students are confronted with the startling news that an alumna has made an allegation of sexual misconduct against an unidentified teacher."
The book is told from the perspective of a group of diverse and interconnected characters as they navigate the challenges of growing up. According to John Murray, against a backdrop of assault and consent, the story that emerges is "an emotionally nuanced depiction of what it means to come of age in a female body today".
Layden is a graduate of Stanford University and has taught at several girls’ schools in the United States. All Girls is her first novel and it has been optioned by HBO with Jessica Rhoades ("Sharp Objects") producing.
Walsh said: "I’ve never read a book that pinpoints so exactly the fraught and complex nature of female adolescence. All Girls is a coming-of-age story but one that is nuanced and topical, looking at assault, consent and what it means to be a young female in today’s world. It doesn’t shy away from looking a difficult subject matter and is a book that everyone should read."
Layden said: "I began writing All Girls while also working as an English teacher at a girls’ school. It seemed to me that we do not often treat the emotional lives of young women with the seriousness they deserve, and I wanted to write something that tried to fully and wholly depict the experience of teenage girlhood. It’s exciting and humbling to hold a copy of a book I wasn’t sure could exist, and I’m thrilled to share the Atwater girls with the world."