I received this book for free from the Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester
Published by St. Martin's Publishing Group on January 18, 2022
Genres: Fiction / Horror
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A biting novel from an electrifying new voice, Kristi DeMeester's Such a Pretty Smile is a heart-stopping tour-de-force about powerful women, angry men, and all the ways in which girls fight against the forces that try to silence them.
There’s something out there that’s killing. Known only as The Cur, he leaves no traces, save for the torn bodies of girls, on the verge of becoming women, who are known as trouble-makers; those who refuse to conform, to know their place. Girls who don’t know when to shut up.
2019: Thirteen-year-old Lila Sawyer has secrets she can’t share with anyone. Not the school psychologist she’s seeing. Not her father, who has a new wife, and a new baby. And not her mother—the infamous Caroline Sawyer, a unique artist whose eerie sculptures, made from bent twigs and crimped leaves, have made her a local celebrity. But soon Lila feels haunted from within, terrorized by a delicious evil that shows her how to find her voice—until she is punished for using it.
2004: Caroline Sawyer hears dogs everywhere. Snarling, barking, teeth snapping that no one else seems to notice. At first, she blames the phantom sounds on her insomnia and her acute stress in caring for her ailing father. But then the delusions begin to take shape—both in her waking hours, and in the violent, visceral sculptures she creates while in a trance-like state. Her fiancé is convinced she needs help. Her new psychiatrist waives her “problem” away with pills. But Caroline’s past is a dark cellar, filled with repressed memories and a lurking horror that the men around her can’t understand.
As past demons become a present threat, both Caroline and Lila must chase the source of this unrelenting, oppressive power to its malignant core. Brilliantly paced, unsettling to the bone, and unapologetically fierce, Such a Pretty Smile is a powerful allegory for what it can mean to be a woman, and an untamed rallying cry for anyone ever told to sit down, shut up, and smile pretty.
This is a hard book to review. On one hand, I was able to read most of the book in a single day and never felt the need to set it aside. On the other hand, this book is weird and I was really counting on the ending to make the journey worthwhile but instead, it was a huge disappointment. I liked the author’s writing style even if the story didn’t completely click for me.
This story is told from two timelines and points of view. Lila’s perspective is set in 2019. She is a middle school girl just trying to fit in and make some friends. Caroline’s story takes place in 2004. Caroline is Lila’s mother but her story takes place before Lila is born. Girls are disappearing and their bodies are usually found soon after in Lila’s world and her mother is more than a little concerned especially since she remembers the same thing happening 15 years earlier in another town. The girls that are taken tend to be ones that are considered troublemakers.
The females in this book are almost always dismissed. They are told what to think by the men around them and their opinions don’t seem to matter. The men are the authority and of course, they know best. Caroline does her best to keep Lila safe but it seems she might be in danger anyway.
I think that a lot of readers will like this one more than I did. This was a 4 star read for me right up until the ending let me down. I did like the book and will not hesitate to read more of this author’s work in the future.
I received a digital review copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press.