Sara Faring’s The Tenth Girl isn’t really my kind of book. And that’s putting it lightly. Maybe I’m just getting old (don’t say it), but lately I just haven’t really been into suffering, in TV or book form. I can’t say I’ve never read psychological thrillers, but I’ve just never been into scary things.
Probably because I actually get scared.
When I heard about Sara Faring’s The Tenth Girl, though, I had a very personal and particular reason to give it a try: the author, a multi-lingual Argentine-American, was writing a tale set in Buenos Aires, and that was something I really hadn’t seen before, something I wanted to support.
So here we are, and I will say a couple of things, starting of course, with the most important one: I surprisingly enjoyed this book. I know, I know, but don’t expect me to go watch IT next. I have a limit.
Of course, this book isn’t scary per se, it’s more your mind is tricking you into thinking you’re scared kinda thing, which you’d think would be better, but it’s worse. Thankfully, I was too concerned with the setting, with how different it was, with what it meant for someone to be telling this story in Buenos Aires, and sounding like they actually knew Buenos Aires, to be as scared as I thought it was gonna be.
Some might have found the setting boring, or unimportant. I appreciated it more than I ever thought I would. The setting sometimes, if it’s used the right way, tells it’s own story, and in this particular case, the setting was, in some instances, the story to be told.
And hey, I wasn’t too distracted to try to guess the twist! There’s always a twist in these types of books. And let me tell you, I didn’t even come close to guessing. Like, if I’d thrown impossible scenarios around, I still wouldn’t have hit this one. I just never even thought about it. I’ve just told you this has a twist, and you’re still very much unlikely guess what that is.
For me, that’s a good thing. A reason to keep reading, to invest.
Plus, did I mention there’s some history to be learned here, about the military regime, about what it means to be part of a country with a very different idiosyncrasy. I’ve heard people say that authors from some countries (Argentina among them), make everything about the military regime, and that can’t be the reason or the background for everything, but I couldn’t disagree more.
You are, after all, your experiences, and the experiences of the people who came before you. And I’m glad this book understands that – and is trying to celebrate a different kind of protagonist than the one we’d usually get.
Do I recommend it? Yes, if you like horror and mystery. I will say, however, that there are multiple content warnings in this book as it includes violence, death, torture, sexual assault and pedophilia, among others. So know that going in, make your own decisions, and if you do read it, come share your thoughts with me!
The Tenth Girl is available today. Here’s the 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.
We also had a chance to talk to Faring about the book, THAT twist, and what she hopes readers would take away from The Tenth Girl. Here’s that interview:
How does it feel to get to write the book you want, and set it in Argentina in the 1970’s, instead of setting it somewhere in the US in present day? It’s not something we get to see often, and I believe it adds a different dimension to the story, and of course, the characters.
Sara: I knew from the beginning this book would be set in a crumbling mansion in icy Patagonia during the 1970s. While this book is entirely fictional, I hoped the setting (and my family details peppered throughout) would inspire readers to google that time period and learn more about what occurred then.
Without spoiling it, did the twist at the end come first, or did the story come to you and then you decided to do the twist? I don’t think I’ve been as shocked as I was at reading the ending in quite a while, so I was wondering where that came about.
Sara: Thank you! The twist came first, out of the inky dark depths of my head, but I didn’t know 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 rooted in one world, when there’s good reason to believe there are so many others (such as Angel’s ghostly one!) running right alongside us at any given time.
Did you want to write a dark and twisty suspense type novel, or did the book just grew into that? Is this a genre you see yourself staying in?
Sara: If I could define my genre, it would be: “dark, gnarled, winding narrative paths that lead you into luminous gardens”. It’s important to me that my characters—after learning so much about the darkness in themselves and the world they live in—reach a point where the world feels resplendent and magical again. I could write that kind of book forever.
Was there a point where you considered sticking to one POV or was this always going to switch between Mavi and Angel? Which of the two did you find harder to write, and why?
Sara: From the beginning, I wanted two points of view: two protagonists who could shed light on secrets of Vaccaro School visible to each one alone. I love reading reveals that are carefully layered into a mystery narrative—they keep me reading late into the night. Following both Mavi and Angel ensured these reveals would be frequent (and gobsmacking). With that being said, Angel was far more difficult to write because Angel’s tone is so specific: dark (pop!) humor, a fair share of sharp pain, and glimmering wonder all have their place.
What do you hope your readers take from The Tenth Girl? What’s the one thing you want to stick with them?
Sara: In the book, Angel and Angel’s mother share this saying, a promise: “wonder, until the very end.” I want readers to feel awed by the world we live in and to revel in the human experience—to tremble with the good fortune of their being alive, even for one single minute. It’s so much easier to be kind when you feel grateful, and that human kindness keeps the world spinning.
The Tenth Girl is available now on Amazon, and a bookstore near you.