Title: Such a Pretty Smile
Author: Kristi DeMeester
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 18, 2022
Page Count: 312
My rating: 3 stars
About the book:
A biting novel from an electrifying new voice, Kristi DeMeester’s Such a Pretty Smile is a heart-stopping tour-de-force about powerful women, angry men, and all the ways in which girls fight against the forces that try to silence them.
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.
Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester is a standalone horror novel. The story in this one is one that is told in two different timelines one in 2004 and one in 2019. Of course there are also changes to the point of view in the story too.
Back in 2004 Caroline Sawyer is an artist who is married when she begins to see and hear things no one else does. Caroline struggles with hearing dogs barking and a dog faced man hiding in the shadows watching her until she finally gets help and medicine to calm the nightmares.
In 2019 Lila Sawyer is wanting nothing more than some trust from her mother who uses protecting as an excuse to say no to everything. Lila doesn’t know of her mother’s past and why Caroline wants to protect her so much but when Lila goes behind her mother’s back and begins seeing the dog faced man herself the last thing she wants to do is admit it to her mother.
Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester seems to be one of those books that people are either loving or hating and somehow I found myself siding with both. There were times I was so engaged to the story that I thought I would end up loving this one but on the other hand I finished and felt letdown. To me the book almost worked but missed something there to make that come together and while I didn’t dislike it completely I did come away feeling I needed more and also seeing why others were disappointed.
I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
Find this book online:
About the author:
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 how to spell her first.
*This is an Amazon affiliate link which will allow me as an associate to earn a small commission on any purchase made through the link of the products I share. This commission in no way changes the pricing of any items for the buyer.