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Book: “Such Sharp Teeth” by Rachel Harrison
Publishing Info: Berkley Books, October 2022
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Book Description: A young woman in need of a transformation finds herself in touch with the animal inside in this gripping, incisive novel from the author of Cackle and The Return.
Rory Morris isn’t thrilled to be moving back to her hometown, even if it is temporary. There are bad memories there. But her twin sister, Scarlett, is pregnant, estranged from the baby’s father, and needs support, so Rory returns to the place she thought she’d put in her rearview. After a night out at a bar where she runs into an old almost-flame, she hits a large animal with her car. And when she gets out to investigate, she’s attacked.
Rory survives, miraculously, but life begins to look and feel different. She’s unnaturally strong, with an aversion to silver–and suddenly the moon has her in its thrall. She’s changing into someone else–something else, maybe even a monster. But does that mean she’s putting those close to her in danger? Or is embracing the wildness inside of her the key to acceptance?
This darkly comedic love story is a brilliantly layered portrait of trauma, rage, and vulnerability.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!
It’s always a cause to celebrate when Rachel Harrison has a new book out! I’ve greatly enjoyed her fresh and feminist scary stories, the first being “The Return” and the second being “Cackle”. When I read that her next book was going to be about werewolves, I was pretty excited. I haven’t done much werewolf lore in my time dabbling in horror media, but I am more than happy to follow Harrison on any journey she wishes to take a reader on. So that meant that “Such Sharp Teeth” was on my radar for a very long time, and by the time I sat down to read it my expectations were pretty high. After all, werewolves AND snappy dialogue should tempt many a horror fan, right? Especially when feminist themes find their way into it as well.
As far as a werewolf story goes, “Such Sharp Teeth” is a fun and at times gruesome take on the sub genre. We have the various elements of body horror that is required, as well as a nice look into the myth and the pieces of the lore that can be tinkered with and, in some ways, subverted. Rory’s monthly transformation is pretty gnarly, and I enjoyed watching the ways that her body changes not only during the full moon, but also in the ‘down time’ of the rest of the month. I also enjoyed the mystery of who exactly bit Rory, and how all the small town ups and downs make for a difficult time of being incognito when you are trying to solve a werewolf curse and all that comes with that. But I also liked the small town elements on their own even without the werewolf part, as a lot of the characters felt pretty realistic in their actions and personalities. Rory is very enjoyable as a protagonist, as she has enough edge and snark to make her funny in her banter and actions, but also a bit of vulnerability about being back in a place that has the people she loves most (her sister Scarlett) as well as a lot of baggage.
But it’s really the feminine rage that is at a simmer in this book and translates into a beastly transformation that did it for me. We got a little bit of this in “Cackle” with how the protagonist Annie finds her confidence and self worth through a supportive female friend, and “Such Sharp Teeth” shifts from self confidence to full on rage in a way that worked really well. Rory’s metamorphosis and realization that she is a werewolf stirs up and lines up with memories, resentments, and anger about traumas from her past in her hometown, and it seems like a fitting metaphor that a beast inside of her (be it werewolf or anger) struggles against her desire to contain and control it. We also have a little bit of examination about women and their bodies and how having control and agency over them can be difficult in certain circumstances, either vis a vis lycanthropy, societal misogyny, or, in the case of Rory’s twin Scarlett, pregnancy. Harrison is careful to keep these themes generally light but also necessarily serious when the moment calls for it, and in other author’s hands it may have felt heavy handed. Not so with Harrison.
For readers out there who want a read in line with the season, but perhaps not something that is SUPER scary, “Such Sharp Teeth” will be a healthy balance of the Halloween spirit and lighter fare. I really enjoy the stories that Harrison writes, and it was great having one for October again!
Rating 8: An enjoyable werewolf story that takes on feminine rage, “Such Sharp Teeth” is another great horror novel from Rachel Harrison!
“Such Sharp Teeth” is included on the Goodreads list “Books Like Stranger Things”.