Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Beginners” as Want to Read:
The Beginners
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Beginners

2.51  ·  Rating details ·  499 ratings  ·  136 reviews
The chilling, hypnotically beautiful story of a girl whose coming of age is darkened by the secret history of her small New England town.

Theo and Raquel Motherwell are the only newcomers to the sleepy town of Wick in fifteen-year-old Ginger Pritt's memory. Hampered by a lingering innocence while her best friend, Cherry, grows more and more embroiled with boys, Ginger is i
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 30th 2011 by Riverhead Books (first published January 1st 2011)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Beginners, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Beginners

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 2.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  499 ratings  ·  136 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Beginners
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
this book has a beautiful cover.

upon a cobalt blue background, a young girl in a black bathing suit appears enraptured. over this is a gilded overlay depicting a forest of bare-branched trees, and what appears to be a fox treeing a cat. this book has 291 pages and costs $26.95.

this book has a beautiful cover.

**a quick addition after reading some other goodreaders' reviews of this. this is most emphatically NOT a YA title. any book that has the following passage:

my hands gripped the maplewood bo
Oct 31, 2012 rated it did not like it
I want to go back and find the person who recommended this book to me before I bought it a year ago and shake them. SHAAAAAAAAKE.

Reasons I bought the book (on deep discount, in a going bye-bye Borders): promise of ghosts, promise of New England coming of age for a bookish ginger girl, promise of history re: Salem Witch trials (my fav!).

Now... the ghosts and the Witch Trials are in peripheral bits that are not followed through on at all throughout the book, and the "coming of age" part is steeped
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
groan. ugh. sigh. blah. oh come ON.

and that about sums it up. look, i respect a book with ambitions. really i do. i was an english major! i live for that shit! but please, like, don't insult me, you know? everything in this book was just so...just so. a young girl's sexual awakening in a town with a history of witch persecutions (gee, what could those two things have to do with each other? that's so original and subtle!). the protagonist sees two crows described in a sinister way, only to have t
Joel Brown
Jul 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
I read this eerie thriller based on a review (NYT?) and because it's set in a thinly disguised version of Massachusetts' Quabbin reservoir area. I lived near there at one point and became fascinated with the story of the drowned towns. There was also supposed to be sexy supernatural evil in the book. And there is some. But it's so lyrically written that I'm still not exactly sure what happened toward the end.

It's the story of a teenaged girl in this dead-end town who becomes fascinated with a pa
Leila Cohan-Miccio
Aug 06, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
What the fuck?

I mean, I like ghosty literary fiction as much as the next girl, but I like mine peppered with any realistic sense of how people speak, think, or behave. This read like someone's dream journal after they'd read Notes On a Scandal while watching The Crucible.
Jan 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
I just had to check out the reader reviews for this book after finishing it. I felt confused and sort of let down with the ending and the way it was written. I was hoping to find some answers in the reviews assuming that I must have overlooked some imortant passages revealing the plot of the story. Turns out everyone had the same problems I did. I was an english major and I have to say the extensive use of language in this book, although impressive, had me glossing over many words I did not know ...more
Catherine Siemann
Nov 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised at the low ratings this one is getting here; I'd never heard of it until I found it browsing at a small local bookstore, but I found it immensely readable. While it uses some of the same formulas popular in YA fantasy/horror -- bookish small-town girl, not quite ready to figure out the practicalities of getting out of town but uneasy with the limitations of her community -- it turns them to impressive effect.

Part of what works so well is the narrative voice: Ginger, the first pe
Oct 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
Disappointing. Boring. Predictable. One review said it had a nice cover.
The cover says it is a story of a 15-year-old girl in a small town who meets a young dashing, worldly and sophisticated couple who are new to the town, and they discover "the town's darker history back to the days of the Salem witch trials" (that's a quote from the cover--ha!) It is about a 15-year-old girl in a small town, who is immature for her age. She and her best friend still play make believe castle games. She becomes
This is one of those books that make me feel stupid after I read it. The premise of the story sounded good to me but, much like, A Reliable Wife, it seemed the story was lost in a lot of the detail. I expected there to be a mystery or a supernatural element in this book but I don't think there was anything. I didn't care about who the Motherwells turned out to be, I just wanted Ginger to stop hanging out with them so I didn't have to read anymore. I only finished this book because I kept telling ...more
Mandy Jo
May 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
This week’s headline? “He Touched Me”

Why this book? supposedly about witches

Which book format? Half Price hardback

Primary reading environment? an unflooded valley

Any preconceived notions? arrogant verbal hyperbole

Identify most with? “shiny twelfth-grade girls”

Three little words? " That’s called ‘dusk’”

Goes well with? “mulchy, nutritious odor”

Recommend this to? an MFA candidate?

“Listen,” she said, as I sat down. “If Cherry won’t tell hers, as host I feel as though I should offer one of mine. But
Glenda Christianson
Jun 30, 2011 rated it did not like it
I initially gave this book to my 15 year old daughter to read. She returned it and boy, am I glad she did. She said she just didn't get it and I agree with her.

This book is portrayed as a YA book that combines coming of age with the Salem witch trial/paranormal. Sounds like a great combination! It just never went anywhere. I kept reading, waiting for more information, more plot, more anything... It never materialized.

The 15 year old main character did not come across as a 15 year old, even a g
Jessica Jeffers
Nov 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Ugh, I gave this one up about a hundred pages in. I read some good things about this book, about a young woman uncovering secrets about the new neighbors in her small New England town, but man it just did not deliver. I hated the main character, Ginger. I thought that she took things way, way too seriously for a fifteen year old. I get that she was supposed to be bookish, socially awkward, an outside, but man - she reminded me of a character from my own life that a friend and I used to snarkily ...more
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
I have to say, I found this book rather unpleasant. I chose it for its cover, which apparently doesn't photograph well, because there's no green on it as in the picture. there is a midnight blue background, with a kneeling girl with a strange hairstyle, all overlaid with a metallic gold image of a forest with brush and trees, a fox and a cat. it's a beautiful cover.

the book is set in a small new england town, so isolated that the "antihero" protagonist, ginger (her best friend's name is cherry)
Oct 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: I wouldn't recommend this one.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
The only reason I gave this book any stars is that it kept my interest. I found myself looking forward to picking it back up again. That said, it was unsatisfying in the end, and I spent way too much time skimming.

Most of the book I felt like the author was trying too hard. Some of the writing was special - and very beautiful. But much of it was just overwrought. Reading about dream sequences - not that interesting. Lots of pretentious BS sprinkled in. I found the pornography way over the top -
This book is billed as the story a young 15 year old girl in a small town who meets a young couple who are strangers to the town, and together they uncover a mystery about the town's past and wich hunting and witch practices. the first part is true. it's about a 15 year old girl in a small town, who is young for her age. she still plays make believe castle games, but she also uses really big words, like anne shirley in anne of green gables. like anne, she has a bosom buddy, her best friend, who ...more
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Already having loved the wry, darkly wrought voice in Wolff's three poetry collections, and the Victorian gothic bent of _Manderley_, my high expectation were met but in strange and unsettling ways by The Beginners (a title I assumed, perhaps correctly?, to be homologous with Zen "beginner's mind). Ginger and Cherry, young teens in a small town, cast spells such as "To Make Oneself Invisible, and Walk Amongst the People": throughout the novel, the horror and realist genres prove inseparable (as ...more
Jul 17, 2011 rated it liked it
I heard Rebecca Wolff being interviewed on NPR, and the book sounded good. It wasn't. Very overwrought, pages and pages of gothic-sounding descriptions of ghosts and towns that were deliberately drowned. Ginger, the protagonist, is a fifteen year old girl with the voice of someone much older. She becomes obsessed with the Motherwells, a strange couple who move to town for no apparent reason, and devotes herself to them, losing her best friend in the process. Her loving mom and dad let her do thi ...more
Mar 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
Fifteen year-old Ginger, who sounds nothing like a fifteen year-old in her narration, becomes instantly infatuated with the new couple that moves to her small hometown in Massachusetts, and the ensuing story is supposed to be one of coming of age. However, at times I began to wonder exactly what I was reading. Ginger claims to be very mature for her age, yet her complete acceptance of the Motherwells, no matter how bizarre their behavior seems to carry her 'innocence' a step or two beyond believ ...more
Susan Wyler
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was stunned by the beauty of this book, one of the most memorable I've read in a long time. Her writing is lyrical, the characters shaded and moving about in a haunted landscape. An internal experience, and a story that's evocative.
It saddens me to see the ratings it's getting. I fear we've lost our way, in the last century, in trying to teach writers to write and winding up with writers who so often write the same way, so when something lovely and fresh comes along we can't even see it.
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
At a certain point, I couldn't put this book down because I wanted to see the conclusion, but I began to skim the parts where the character Raquel was speaking because she was exhausting and a bore. Which may have been Rebecca Wolff's point.

There was much left to the reader's imagination. I'm okay with that.
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
i can't believe this book has such low ratings! i hope you will believe me when i say this book is very, very excellent. it is incredibly beautifully written- clear and narrative but with descriptions and tone such that you know a poet wrote it. a strange and careful story, spooky and tense. one of my favorite novels of last year. ...more
Matt Walker
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
I tore through this in just eight days. Spooky as hell.

Oh, and to all the Goodreads reviewers rating this 1 or 2 stars, you are all illiterate morons who have no business writing a fucking GROCERY LIST let alone a book review.

Have a nice day.
Jul 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
Horrible, weird and disturbing...
Jul 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
I originally picked this novel up because it had the words "salem witch trials" in the description and I adore anything about witches and witch history. Sadly, I feel like I was lied to. The story has a sliver; a teeny-tiny mentioning of the trials and that's about it. I was promised fantasy as well, but it read more like a graphic porn novel than anything.

Also worth mentioning: what exactly was the ending? I'm still confused about what happened. Although, reading others reviews I am not the on
Kelly McCloskey-Romero
Very disappointing. The writing is mesmerizing, but the characters are opaque and the plot is needlessly disturbing. We never really understand why the protagonist or even the antagonists act as they do. The novel is skillfully woven and so many of the sentences are entrancing, but for what purpose?
Mar 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Why are so many people mad about this not being YA?

This book was published too early. If it had been published post-me too, it would have gotten better reviews.
Sep 14, 2011 added it
Possibly- this book is better than it seems at first glance.
I am half way through, mostly wondering why I am reading it at all. Forget that I can't recall putting a hold on it- must have mistaken it for something else- but it was on the library shelf with my ID slip tucked into the cover. Been chugging along reading it in bits and pieces, because here it sits on my nightstand for the duration our library furlough and the chaos of the last week of summer/first week of time to think
Chad Sayban
Jul 25, 2011 rated it did not like it
The Beginners takes us into the life of fifteen-year-old Ginger Pritt and her life growing up in a too-small town. While her best friend Cherry has taken to chasing boys, Ginger feels enslaved by her own innocence until the arrival of a sophisticated couple from the city who take a keen interest in her. But who are they and why are they so interested in her while so uninterested in the rest of the town?

“I was standing there in my usual spot behind to counter at the Top Hat Café, looking down,
May 30, 2011 rated it liked it


The Beginners has got to be the most confusing thing I've read in a very long time. Seriously.

The story follows a young girl, Ginger Pritt, and her interactions with a new couple that moves to her small town called Wick. As I took it, it was a story about exploring herself and relationships. Along the way, she explores the history of her small town, as well. The synopsis made the 'dark' history of the town seem like it played a lot more a role in the book than it actually did. Unless I was
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Interior Chinatown
  • The Keeper of Lost Causes (Department Q, #1)
  • Tail of the Blue Bird
  • My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress
  • The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
  • A Secret History of Witches
  • The Fire Never Goes Out: A Memoir in Pictures
  • Snapdragon
  • Antoinette
  • Bianca, afscheid van Drenthe? (Bianca #65)
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton
  • Roan (The Tales of Conor Archer #1)
  • The Influencers (The Society Book 1)
  • A Gift for a Ghost
  • Eat, and Love Yourself
  • Sheets (Sheets, #1)
  • The Secret Journal (God Stones Book 1)
  • The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
See similar books…
Rebecca Wolff is the editor of Fence and the author of Manderley, Figment and Continuum. She lives in Athens, New York, with her family and is a Fellow of the New York State Writers Institute.

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
1 likes · 0 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »