YA Weekend Audio: The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 2 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Young Adult
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (September 24, 2019)
Length: 15 hrs and 35 mins
Narrator: Frankie Corzo, Mark Sanderlin
I guess I’m just not having the best luck with my horror reads lately. The Tenth Girl was the latest to disappoint, and this one stings especially, considering how it started off leading me to believe I was going to fall in love with this book. Somewhere along the way though, everything started unraveling.
Labeled a gothic psychological thriller, The Tenth Girl follows 18-year-old protagonist Mavi who arrives at Carmela De Vaccaro’s elite finishing school for girls, to which she had given false information in order to gain a teaching job. Said to be cursed, the isolated boarding academy sits in an icy region of Patagonia which has seen much political unrest, resulting in the ousting of its local peoples. It is the 1970s, and Mavi herself has come to this remote part of the continent from her home of Buenos Aires following the death of her activist mother at the hands of the military regime, hoping to find some refuge in the mountains.
What she did not expect to find, however, was even more trouble. At the school, Mavi is introduced to its nine students, though if the whispers are true, there is a tenth girl who is missing, but everyone is tightlipped about that. Things are certainly creepy enough at Vaccaro’s without the disturbing rumors flying about, with its foreboding headmistress and dire warnings not to go wandering on the grounds at night. Whispers of phantoms and ghostly possession also plague the school halls, which have seen their fair share of tragedy and devastation. As Mavi learns more about the dreadful history of the academy, she also finds out about the mysterious Others through one of their members, a spirit boy named Angel.
One incredibly jarring thing about The Tenth Girl is its structure. The narration flips between perspectives, mainly those of Mavi and Angel, and the novel also appears to be told via more than one timeline, though seeing how that is one element of the ultimate surprise, I’m not going into too much detail about that. I think my biggest issue with this book is the ending. On the one hand, it had a great twist, one that should have been right up my alley due to certain elements I am unable to reveal. Unfortunately, though, I was not a fan of the way it was handled. Since I can’t really talk about it due to spoilers, I’ll say this: it felt like a copout, and I didn’t like the sudden shift in how it made readers view the world. All that delicious gothic atmosphere that I was enjoying? Completely destroyed.
The ending was also implemented in a way that felt out of place and broke any kind of connection I was having with the story up to that point, making me look back at the first three-quarters of the book with mistrust and more than a few eyerolls. Here’s the thing: twists that make me feel shocked and blindsided are fine, but twists that make me feel cheated and robbed are not. I bring this up because I suspect readers will fall into one of these two mindsets once they reach the end, and that will ultimately determine how you feel about this book.
And really, it’s just such a shame when looking back, because the author clearly has a good grasp of the gothic horror tradition, as evidenced by how well she created the perfect mood for her haunted school story. While billed as a thriller, the novel’s pacing is more of a slow-burn—which was exactly what the plot required. The characters were also intriguing, and I immediately took to Mavi and the heartbreaking history of her family, while the personalities and behaviors of the students, staff, and Others at the Vaccaro school added extra layers to the mysterious sense of the place. All this and more contributed to the fantastic historical setting, and if anything, that was what made the eventual bait-and-switch feel even more frustrating, adding to my regret.
Still, kudos to Sara Faring for taking such a bold risk here, with one of the most extreme and daring twists I’ve seen in a while. I certainly don’t resent the twist itself, and might have even enjoyed it had it been handled better, but I think that would have required a very different book. Ultimately, The Tenth Girl didn’t work too well for me, but I believe others might do better with it. So if you’re willing to take the chance, it could be worth a look.
Audiobook Comments: Of the two narrators for The Tenth Girl audiobook, Frankie Corzo probably did the better job reading as Mavi, while Mark Sanderlin voice sounds way too young for someone like Angel, hence his chapters were somewhat distracting and not as good.