Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester

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.

Advanced Praise for Such a Pretty Smile:

“A righteously angry fever dream.” – Paul Tremblay

“Darkly visceral.” – Publishers Weekly

“Compulsive and horrifyingly entertaining.” – Liz Nugent

“Darkly feminist.” – Karma Brown

“Razor-sharp. This one will cut you.” – Christopher Golden

“DeMeester’s storytelling is ferociously and unashamedly feminine…very satisfying.” – Sadie Hartmann “Mother Horror,” Mystery & Suspense Magazine

My Review:

Lila’s mom Caroline is a little overprotective. Although, a girl did go missing (and turned up dead) in her smallish town outside Atlanta, so it makes sense. But to Lila, all she wants to do is fit in with her cool friend, Macie, and her mom is really making it hard to look normal. Not only that, but Lila also overhears her mom talking to her dad on the phone about the murder and it seems to fit the exact same thing that was happening years ago when her parents were together and lived in NOLA.

Girls keep going missing, and Lila starts to see, hear and and then feel strange things. And it gets to the point where she feels that whatever is killing the girls is inside her. She isn’t sure how or why, but something is going on and its coming directly for her. So could it really be human?

Such a Pretty Smile is a great horror read. I read so much suspense that deals in worst case scenarios of normal, everyday settings (think the evil that lives within your friends and neighbors), that taking a dip in something a bit more supernatural is a nice break. I appreciated the settings and loved how DeMeester flipped back and forth to tell Caroline’s story in a parallel way to Lilas.

Specials thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced e-galley in exchange for my honest review. Such a Pretty Smile is out January 18 and it’s the perfect read to kick off a new year of great books. Get your copy.


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