Published by Delacorte Press on October 10, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Sexual Content: Sexual harassment, abuse, rape
Reviewed by: Tacoma
Five boys attacked her.
Now they must repay her with their blood and flesh.
Bethan is the apprentice to a green healer named Drina in a clan of Welsh Romanies. Her life is happy and ordered and modest, as required by Roma custom, except for one thing: Silas, the son of the chieftain, has been secretly harassing her.
One night, Silas and his friends brutally assault Bethan and a half-Roma friend, Martyn. As empty and hopeless as she feels from the attack, she asks Drina to bring Martyn back from death’s door. “There is always a price for this kind of magic,” Drina warns. The way to save him is gruesome. Bethan must collect grisly pieces to fuel the spell: an ear, some hair, an eye, a nose, and fingers.
She gives the boys who assaulted her a chance to come forward and apologize. And when they don’t, she knows exactly where to collect her ingredients to save Martyn.
THE HOLLOW GIRL was written by a Romani to honor her grandmother and their shared Romani heritage. I was drawn in by that fact, excited to learn more about the Romani culture from the point-of-view of a young woman learning magic from her grandmother. However, I feel I must start this review by acknowledging that THE HOLLOW GIRL deals with a trigger warning for sexual harassment, abuse, and rape.
Bethan is subject to many different abuses at the hands of people both within and outside of her clan. She faces the awful reality of sexual harassment and rape culture. People touch her without her permission, because of her birthmark and because she stands outside of the clan as the drabarni's apprentice. She is both feared and admired, but ultimately thought of as an object to be possessed by the clansmen. This is not a book for people that want to escape the harsh reality that, even in 2017, women are treated horribly across the globe.
The rape, while not descriptive, remains the center of the book and propels all action. Her grandmother, the clan's drabarni, foretells something terrible is meant to happen to Bethan. I was uncomfortable with this plot decision from the start, but I could not get over the implication that it was Bethan's destiny to be raped and to survive. Until the rape, Bethan is largely passive. Afterwards, she is motivated to learn magic from her grandmother for the purposes of revenge. And when she completes her revenge, the book abruptly ends.
THE HOLLOW GIRL is well-written and covers the harsh truths of life that many women, especially minorities, face. But I could not get over the use of rape as a motivating plot-device. Some might find the revenge cathartic. I, like Bethan, only felt hollow.Series Titles:
- For another #OwnVoices book featuring magic, check out When the Moon Was Ours by Anna Marie McLemore.