Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Received From: Print ARC from the author
Five boys attacked her.
Now they must repay her with their blood and flesh.
Bethan is the apprentice to a green healer named Drina in a clan of Welsh Romanies. Her life is happy and ordered and modest, as required by Roma custom, except for one thing: Silas, the son of the chieftain, has been secretly harassing her.
One night, Silas and his friends brutally assault Bethan and a half-Roma friend, Martyn. As empty and hopeless as she feels from the attack, she asks Drina to bring Martyn back from death’s door. “There is always a price for this kind of magic,” Drina warns. The way to save him is gruesome. Bethan must collect grisly pieces to fuel the spell: an ear, some hair, an eye, a nose, and fingers.
She gives the boys who assaulted her a chance to come forward and apologize. And when they don’t, she knows exactly where to collect her ingredients to save Martyn.
SEXUALITY: presumed heterosexual but never established
TROPES: magical abilities, healer’s apprentice
TAGS: horror, paranormal, fantasy, young adult, rape culture, feminism, disabled characters, POC characters, biracial characters, PTSD, OwnVoices
WARNINGS: rape, sexual assault, assault, non-consensual touching, rape culture, toxic masculinity, violence, explicit violence, murder, self-harm, blood, gore, ableism, racism, slurs
“Strength comes in many guises, Bethan. Knowing yourself, your limitations–knowing what you will and will not do, following your heart–that is strength. Enduring what you endured and still being merciful and hopeful? That is strength.”
This book very rapidly became one of my favorites I’ve read this year, and probably a forever favorite too.
Even without the author’s foreword in which Monahan clearly warns that this novel includes a rape (thankfully “off page”), it is immediately apparent that THE HOLLOW GIRL is an indictment of rape culture and toxic masculinity. You are meant to hate Silas, the rapist, from the very first time he’s on page, and sympathize with Bethan’s fear of the harassment she receives from him and his friends. The rape does not occur until several chapters deep into the book, with the previous pages setting the horrifying scene as Bethan travels from the caravan to town by herself, as she endures harassment and spurns Silas, as she befriends a diddicoy (biracial, part Romani) boy at the market. Even knowing what’s going to happen, it was enough to make me hope that it wouldn’t. Of course it did–Bethan is brutally attacked by Silas’ friends and raped by Silas himself–and I needed to take a break after that scene. After Bethan is forced to go through such a soul-crushing, traumatizing ordeal.
The rest of the novel beautifully, viciously follows Bethan as she enacts vengeance for herself and Martyn, the diddicoy boy who tried to come to her rescue and was beaten nearly to death. She, literally, takes her pound of flesh for a spell to bring Martyn back from the brink of death and is the one who dictates the punishment for the five boys who assaulted her. While I would never ever wish this experience on anyone, it was incredibly vindicating to watch Bethan receive some kind of concrete revenge. Though exacting pain on her torturers isn’t a magic cure for her own trauma, the resulting PTSD, and the aversion to touch, it gives Bethan power over her own survival and recovery. That is an invaluable narrative for survivors, and I’m so glad Monahan wrote and was able to publish this story for the people who need it the most.
The exploration of Romani culture within this novel was rich and beautiful. This was one aspect I was really excited about when I first heard about this book and when I received the ARC. As a culture that is ridiculed and degraded more often than not, with racist stereotypes the leading depictions, I was thrilled to finally be able to read a book by a multiracial, Romani author, and Monahan does a fantastic job of thrusting you into the culture Bethan lives in, explaining and showing the intricacies of multiple aspects without becoming huge information dumps and unnecessarily long exposition.
I also really enjoyed the friendship and budding romance between Bethan and Martyn, and I like to imagine that, if/when she’s ready, the two of them explore that even further.
The one small issue I had was that at one point Silas was called a madman for daring to harm Bethan and incur Gran’s wrath. Knowing Monahan, I don’t believe she meant to equate his actions with mental illness, but this moment still gave me slight pause.
Hillary Monahan’s YA debut MARY: The Summoning, a YA Horror retelling of the Bloody Mary myth, sold at auction to Hyperion and hit number two on the New York Times e-book bestseller list. MARY: Unleashed is out as of fall 2015. She’s also published THE AWESOME with Ravenstone under the name Eva Darrows, which received starred reviews in both Kirkus and PW.
Her next three publications are an adult horror novel in the GODS & MONSTERS series for Solaris, due out in December of 2016. Spring of 2017 will see the YA contemporary DEAD LITTLE MEAN GIRL under the name Eva Darrows published through Harlequin Teen. Fall of 2017 sees the YA horror THE HOLLOW GIRL under Hillary Monahan through Delacorte/Random House.