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Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester

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Published: January 18, 2022

St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 320

Genre: Psychological Thriller

KKECReads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I received a copy of this book for free, and I leave my review voluntarily.

Kristi DeMeester is the author of Beneath, a novel published by Word Horde Publications, and Everything That’s Underneath, a short fiction collection from Apex Books. Her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Ellen Datlow’s The Year’s Best Horror Volume 9, 11, and 12; Stephen Jones’ Best New Horror, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volumes 1, 3, and 5; in addition to publications such as Pseudopod, Black Static, Fairy Tale Review, and several others. In her spare time, she alternates between telling people how to pronounce her last name and spell her first.

Blurb: 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

“Yes. She would go back.”

Lila has been a good girl her whole life, and she is holding secrets inside of her. Desires. Her mom, Caroline, has secrets and scars she won’t talk about. And as things progress, they realize they only have each other. But for how long, neither can say.

This was not my typical read. But I don’t regret reading this novel. The story is scary, dark, twisted, and perfectly set.

The characters were all so well done. And the discussion and handling of mental health were so well done.

Lila is a typical young teenager, repressing who she truly is for fear of rejection. She tries to be what she thinks everyone wants her to be-but it starts to weigh on her. An unbearable pressure that starts to fester and starts bringing animalistic urges to the surface.

Caroline is the definition of someone the system abandoned. Anytime she struggled, she has prescribed a pill and told to stop being emotional. But through the murk, she learned to advocate for herself. And she decides she is taking her power back.

I’m not a huge supernatural fan, but I enjoyed this story. I enjoyed how it progressed, and I enjoyed how it ended. I loved how the intensity was played, and I loved how palpable the terror and desire felt.

Kristi DeMeester is a gifted storyteller, and I look forward to reading more of her work. She was able to bring this story to life with intense visuals and a terrifying twist.

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