Blog Tour: The Tenth Girl Review + Author Interview
The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring is a Gothic psychological thriller/historical fiction YA novel that just came out on September 24th 2019 from Imprint. It follows Mavi, a young woman on the run who accepts a position teaching English at an elite boarding school for girls set in the remote and icy Patagonian wilderness, only to find out that the school holds dark and haunting secrets.
I am super excited and thankful to have worked with Sara Faring and Sazón Book Tours to bring you this post! Most of all, I am excited that you have the change to enjoy this perfectly spooktacular book this Fall right on time for Halloween!
Title: The Tenth Girl
Author: Sara Faring
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Topics: Argentine mythology, Haunted houses, Boarding schools
Content Warning: Child abuse, Some violence
Publishing Year: 2019
Format Read: Paperback (ARC)
Bring out the throw blanket, light some candles, and curl up with The Tenth Girl on a stormy Fall night. If you had to describe it in one word, it would absolutely be ‘atmospheric’. Faring is a master at setting a spooky scene. She vividly transports us to the frozen outskirts of Patagonia where she introduces us to the Vaccaro School; a prestigious boarding school with a dark past worthy of a Brontë novel. We follow two main protagonists: Mavi, a young English teacher with a dark past of her own and Angel, a ghostly entity that wanders through the school’s halls. As the two characters' story lines interplay and eventually collide, the book builds to an explosive twists that invites readers to both revel in their favorite spooky tropes and then question everything as Sara sets up one of the biggest twist I have read in a long time. With its vivid settings, unsettling characters, and an intricate backstory, The Tenth Girl is the perfect book to curl up with this Fall.
Synopsis: Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.
At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.
Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.
One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi's existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.
When I first read the synopsis of the book I felt like this book had all my bookish Fall catnip: a boarding school/haunted house setting, Latin American historical fiction, and a protagonist running away from their troubled past. The Tenth Girl does delivers on these tropes, but what makes The Tenth Girl stand out is the way it plays with and bends these conventional genre labels. It mixes elements from horror, psychological thriller, paranormal, historical fiction, Gothic, mystery, and more. It really delivers a unique blend that will keep fans of all these genres guessing twist after plot twist. This unique mix mash was personally a joy for me to read, that said, I do think that going into this book with the right expectations and an open mind are the keys to ‘making’ this reading experience.
To elaborate, although the Tenth Girl borrows from all of the aforementioned categories, it does not fit neatly into a single or even several boxes. I do believe that the key to this book is having the right expectations; if you are looking for a unique story, heavy in atmosphere, with a slowly creeping feeling of dread, this will prove a delight and a surprise. If you are looking for a straightforward mystery or YA book this might not be the right book to fit that need. I say this particularly because of the book’s pacing. The Tenth Girl comes in at a hefty 464 pages which is quite long for a YA or even an adult thriller. The pacing is fairly slow for the first 130 or so pages. It languorously revels in its own creepy atmosphere, building characters and backstory until the plot begins to pick up about page 200. Then, in the last quarter of a book, the story takes a 180 turn that had me staying up past my bedtime just to see how it ended. Readers who are used to or are looking for a lightning fast paced YA or psychological thriller might find themselves feeling discouraged as the book will keep you in suspense for a long time. But the patient and diligent reader will be rewarded not only with a wonderfully Gothic and immersive reading experience but also with a twist that is worthy of a Black Mirror episode.
Apart from the overall deliciously foreboding atmosphere of the book, there were two things that I personally really enjoyed in The Tenth Girl. The first was the incorporation of Argentine history and mythology into the story. Mavi, the protagonist is living through Argentina’s military regime that spanned the 70’s and 80’s. This is a history in that many Argentines lived through and carry with them and a history that the US is deeply intertwined with. Yet South American history, particularly the “Dirty War” is not something that is often taught or shown to English speaking audiences and I appreciate anytime we as readers get exposure to it, particularly in genre fiction. Faring incorporates stories that she heard about from her own family which adds an additional layer of personal detail to the story that is as fascinating as it is heartbreaking.
The second is the twist ending and how carefully Sara crafts the big reveal. I won’t go into details because I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but I will say that I didn’t see the twist coming. I am a big thriller fan and pride myself in guessing the big twist before the reveal but nope. Could never have guessed. At all. The best thing is that I felt like I should have. Faring sprinkles so many subtle clues into the story that when the whole thing finally comes together at the end you realize “oh wow, I should have seen that!”. Even the cover and copyright page contain small but fascinating clues! I love the attention to detail that went into this story and ingenious balance of a seemingly impossible yet ingenious solution that Sara has pulled off. Overall, The Tenth Girl is a atmospheric, mind-bending read that takes genre conventions and turns them on their head all while managing to ask the reader to consider some deeper questions about personhood, morality and history that will keep you pondering long after you turn the last page. Needless to say, I am extremely excited to see what Sara will come up with next!
Read if you like:
Mind Bending ‘Black Mirror’ plot twists
Being kept in suspense until the end
Gothic horror vibes and South American historical fiction
Maybe think twice if:
A fast-paced thriller
You are looking to avoid some disturbing content (see content warning above)
Disclaimer: I was given a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review. All opinions are my own.
Interview with Sara Faring
Latinas Leyendo: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on Latinas Leyendo! Let’s start at the beginning. What inspired you to write Mavi and Angel’s story?
Sara: Thank you for having me! Two sets of family stories inspired this book: the spooky Argentine legends my grandmother told me when I was growing up (I was half-convinced there were creatures crawling up to my window, ready to eat me whole), and the stories I heard as an adult about the brutal 1970s/80s, when a military regime controlled Argentina. Some of these worked their way into The Tenth Girl (keep your eyes peeled for the story of the poison tooth).
I wanted to reclaim that feeling of awe in the world—despite its darkness—that I felt when reading as a child. In this story, I found it.
Latinas Leyendo: The icy Patagonian landscape and the ominous Vaccaro School are such fantastically vivid settings! Can you tell us a little bit about what went into creating these settings?
Sara: The time I was fortunate enough to spend with my family in Argentina was an important part of crafting the settings. I have a chance to visit once or twice a year, but I wish I could spend even longer down there with them. Patagonia struck me as an ideal setting for a chilling psychological thriller, with its desolate open spaces, milky glacial lakes, and lonesome ice peaks. It is glorious.
Latinas Leyendo: I won’t spoil the big twist at the end but I have to say I never saw it coming! Did you already know what the big twist was when you first started writing the story? Or did it change as you went along?
Sara: The twist came first, out of the inky dark depths of my imagination, but I wasn’t sure just how far I would take it until very far along in the revision process. The twist grew out of a late-night obsession of mine—without spoiling anything, I’ll say that I always think about the filmy nature of existence: how we can feel so grounded in one world, when there’s reason to believe there are so many others (such as Angel’s ghostly one) running right alongside us all the time.
Latinas Leyendo: When you’re not writing, do you enjoy reading as well? If so, could you share with us a few books you’ve recently read and loved?
Sara: Yes! I will never stop raving about The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante. It has a beating heart you can feel on the very first page, two Salvadoran sisters I would follow anywhere, and magic on the fringes (in this case, a speculative premise—could a human carry another’s grief?). I adored it. I recommend some more books here: https://www.bookish.com/articles/sara-faring-tenth-girl-book-recommendations/
Latinas Leyendo: Last but not least, what are you working on next?
Sara: I’m writing a book about two estranged sisters returning home to a mysterious island, a decade after their infamous mother disappeared. I’m loving every moment I spend in this strange, basalt-brick town full of secrets...