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The Tenth Girl

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Tenth Girl Book Poster Image
Dense, eerie, violent horror story with surprising twist.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some insight into Argentinian culture, especially the folklore of Patagonia.

Positive Messages

Inner strength comes from not feeling alone, even when you're afraid or unsure of what to do; gather your friends and loved ones around you to foster the strength you need to do what you must. The only way to defeat darkness is to band together and fight toward the light. You have to live life to the fullest even if you're afraid something catastrophic might happen at any moment. Memories are central to existence; they're reminders of strong emotions, which give souls a form to inhabit. Asks questions about being certain of yourself, your reality, whom you can trust. How important is being certain? What kinds of things can we be sure of, and are there things we can never be sure of? Also explores the transient nature of existence and human relationships.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mavi is a great role model for compassion, courage, integrity, and perseverance. She wants to know the truth about the world she lives in and the other people at the school, and she never gives up fighting against the dark forces. She also draws strength from gathering others around her, helping them, and being helped by them. Angel is a mysterious character in mysterious circumstances, but as he gets to know Mavi he wants to help her discover the truth behind all the mysteries, and help both Mavi and himself become who and what they were meant to be.

Violence

Most of the violence is in the form of dark, eerie, horror-like atmospheres and locations with ghosts, monsters that feed off of people's life energy, and strange sounds and occurrences. Parental loss as well as parents losing infants and young children are important themes. Several references to self -harm and attempted suicide. Most physical violence is in the past and includes vague descriptions of physical and emotional abuse, and a government that takes people away never to be seen again with mentions of kidnapping, torture, and rape. One character's sadistic tendencies mentioned but not described and imply torturing animals and abusing a sibling. A teacher is accused of sexually assaulting a student. Occasional, brief mentions of blood from injuries or illness. Fantasy violence includes a woman stabbing herself and repeated amputations when the limb magically grows back.

Sex

A friendship deepens into affection and romance. One kiss. "Jacking yourself off" mentioned. A fantasy sequence mentions a naked man's penis jiggling as he runs across a room; no other description or specifics mentioned.

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "d--k" (name calling and body part), "damn," "bastard," "asshole," "bitch," "Goddamn." Some verbal hostility and a few brief instances of a parent verbally abusing her adult child. Middle-finger gesture mentioned.

Consumerism

Lancome mentioned once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults and older teens (who are likely of age in the setting) drink wine and brandy on special occasions. One instance of getting drunk enough to pass out, and one teacher has a secret stash of brandy. An adult character smokes hashish and marijuana every day; once he's mentioned smoking one of his "big-boy cigarettes." Some pipe smoking and mention of "fetid" tobacco smoke. Two students, 12-13 years old, smoke with an adult. Several students share a cigarette.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Tenth Girl is a horror-mystery with some real-world and fantasy violence that mentions blood, illness, and injuries, but most of the violence comes from the dark, eerie, and sometimes grotesque unknown. Themes include children losing parents; parents losing children; government-sanctioned violence like kidnapping, torture, and rape; implied sadistic behavior; implied sexual assault; bulllying; and physical and verbal abuse. Fantasy violence includes grotesque monsters that suck the life force out of people and horrific hauntings. There's a blossoming romance with one kiss. Lots of strong language, including "f--k," "s--t," "d--k," and "bitch." Philosophical themes include the nature of reality, how important it is to be certain, how you can know who you really are and what you're meant to be, and the very nature of memory, human relationships, and existence. Best for mature readers who like to chew on large bites of food for thought, and who enjoy horror, of course.

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What's the story?

Mavi is intrigued and concerned about THE TENTH GIRL as soon as she starts her job teaching English at a remote, exclusive boarding school on the frigid southern tip of Argentina. When Mavi asks why only nine girls are present when she was told there would be 10, her boss assures her that the 10th girl will be joining them soon. But weeks and then months go by, and still no 10th girl. But strange and dangerous events quickly start unfolding:  Strange noises, shadowy figures, mysterious illnesses, and more make it clear to Mavi that more is going on than meets the eye at the school, long since cursed by the area's indigenous people. To say nothing of the often-repeated warning never to wander the house at night. The more Mavi tries to learn the truth, the more the house and its inhabitants seem to succumb to the ancient curse. If she ever hopes to escape, she'll have to learn the ultimate truth, but when she does it will completely shatter everything she knows about herself and the world she inhabits.

Is it any good?

This creepy, gothic spook-fest is best for mature fans of the genre. At first, author Sara Faring's debut novel seems a worthy successor to some of the great gothic horror novels of all time. But a weak, too-long middle and a twist that will jar some readers right out of everything she built over 400 pages of The Tenth Girl make it something else entirely. It's hard to define or put in a box what exactly that something else is, and speculating about it here would only spoil it. Be prepared to think about the nature of reality, existence, human relationships, and more from a completely unexpected, new angle.

Faring excels at creating mystery and eerie atmosphere around every corner, using everything from the weather to the architecture, and of course every character at her disposal. The middle does drag on for too long without advancing the story or heightening emotions. But keep going and the ending will blow your mind. You'll either love it or hate it. But it will definitely give you a lot to think about, whichever side you land on.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in The Tenth Girl. Is it too much or appropriate to the horror genre and this story? How is reading violence on the page different from seeing it in videos, movies, or even real life?

  • Stories that scare us or creep us out have been around probably for as long as people have been telling stories. Who are some of your favorite horror authors, or what are your favorite books? How does this one compare?

  • Did a twist surprise you, or did you see it coming? Did it change it change what the book is really about? Did it change any of your opinions about the story or its characters?

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