The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan
Published by Delacorte Press: scheduled for Oct. 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Horror
WOW! So I didn’t know what to think going into this. I almost didn’t request it, because it seemed just on the border of something I’d be comfortable reading. I am still honestly so confused about my thoughts. Which I think is natural, given the situation. The author wrote both an amazing forward and an end note, and in the end note she explained that her editor said she loved and hated the book equally, which I think sums up my feelings nicely.
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.
I will say the premise intrigued me while it also had me very concerned. We have a young girl who has been raped, and who now is willing to go to crazy lengths to bring her friend back from the dead. So many trigger warnings, so much that could be done with too little tact, and I almost didn’t request it.
I am glad I did, though. While I will say that the very idea of this is quite obviously not for everyone, I think it does what it sets out to do with incredible grace.
Is very interesting! There were aspects of it I really, really enjoyed. Everything scene with magic is written just beautifully. And while there is a definite trigger warning for a rape, the scene itself is mostly off camera and written incredibly tactfully.
I do feel there was a pacing issue. We spend a fair amount of time before the story gets started getting to know Bethan and gran and Martyn, and it’s a bit slow (especially because we’re growing accustomed to the Romani and their ways). And then boom, the inciting incident happens already halfway through, and the rest of the book feels rushed. The horror scenes, the gruesome justice we crave, all happens so quickly that it’s hard to feel particularly excited about the wrongs being righted.
This is an interesting one here. I love Bethan’s gran, who teaches her everything and guides her through the aftermath of her assault. She’s such a fun woman, very different from so many warm grandmothers in stories.
Martyn, Bethan’s friend who she is trying to save, is great. I do enjoy that we get to know him fairly well before the incident. He’s very funny, and his dynamic with Bethan is wonderful.
I don’t know if I like Bethan? Which is fine. I do empathize with her, and I care for what happens to her, and I suppose that’s really what’s important.
I also genuinely hate the antagonists, the boys involved in Bethan’s rape (duh, right?), but I mean there was a lot of build up so you hate the boys thoroughly even before that.
I think it’s great that we have a Romani story, especially an own voices one, that tackles such an important issue.
This speaks so much to rape culture. We have boys who actively participate in a rape they don’t agree with, because their friend tells them what to do. It speaks so much to hive mind and how when people aren’t held accountable for their actions, they can go to these horrible lengths to get what they want.