The Tenth Girl Slow Read: chapters 4 & 5

So obviously, I should say, SPOILERS. This isn’t a review, but a read along, and appreciation (so far!). That means I’m going to talk about the events with varying levels of details.

That out of the way, let’s talk about chapters four and five!

Previously.

Chapter four brings us Angel’s POV again, and I’m assuming at this point we’ll get alternating viewpoints until the end.  But straight off the bat, we learn two things: Angel is in a sort of hell space spiritually after an act of violence—on an undisclosed someone, maybe herself? (There’s something about the phrase “a moment of violence by my own hand” that is hard to parse.) And also? She’s there to feed on the living people at the school. As Charon says, “You’ve got to suck one of the meat bags bone-dry before you jet out of here for the night. You’ve got to shuck its pretty little skull like a corncob.”

Eek!

As an aside, Charon makes me feel like one of those annoying reviewers who likes to leave one sentence reviews on goodreads that say things like, “This book had too much swearing in it, I couldn’t finish it.” Or worse! The reviewer who says something along the lines of “Oh, the writer shows obvious skill, ’tis a pity she can’t refrain from using such foul language.” It always makes me roll my eyes and grit my teeth at the same time.

That said, Charon really does have a foul tongue, and it’s strident against Mavi’s restrained voice. Jarring, still. I’ll get used to it. I think it’s not actually the swearing; it’s the hostility he seems to emanate. He makes me nervous. Which, I suppose is the point.

The writing is, as before, really precise and effective.

I shouldn’t call her that [ghostfucker]. I shouldn’t. She’s Yesi. … But I know it would be easier to feed if I branded her as one single thing and disconnected—choosing simplicity of thought over curiosity in the complexity of human nature. The less aware I am of her nooks and curves—the more I view her as a paper cutout of a human being—the easier it is to flatten her into nothing, all for my agenda. Flick—there goes the paper doll, smoothed to nothing at all. I’ve been the paper cutout before. I guess now I’m the flicker.

p. 57, The Tenth Girl

Nice psychology on the page, excellent imagery, and oh that little twist of being a flicker—both the act of careless dismissal, and the flicker of light that brings ghosts to mind.  Love it.

And things get worse. Angel goes to feed and sees that Yesi’s already being fed on. Like a buffet, the Others are swarming Yesi. It’s creepy as hell.  Good job, ghost story! You made my skin crawl.

We also see that the Others can steal the stolen energy from Angel, even as she’s stealing it from Yesi. It’s a whole horrible parasitic sort of creepiness. The chapter ends with Angel slipping into Mavi’s room to watch her sleep. There are suggestions that Angel knows Mavi’s future, but whether it’s just the near future of being fed on by spectral scavengers, or whether Angel actually knows Mavi’s personal history is not yet clear. Either way, Mavi, unlike poor Yesi, sleeps peacefully and unmolested.

Chapter five is hard on poor Mavi. It starts auspiciously enough–a well-laif banquet, sunlight, friendly faces of fellow teachers (and weirdos)–but it plummets quickly. On her problem-riddled arrival, a young man had looked out the window, seen her stranded outside, and sneered at her. Now, she learns that he is Domenico de Vaccaro, the spoiled son of the school’s owner, and that he’s even more horrible than she thought. His mother, Carmela, isn’t much better–abstractly menacing, superficially polite, and yet….

Here, we get the tenth girl of the title. Carmela tells Mavi she will have ten girls in class, but only nine arrive (nearly half an hour late, lacking all respect). When Mavi asks about the remaining girl, the nine girls tell mocking, contradictory stories about where the girl is: some rude, some violent, all unkind. Mavi gives up, more worried about another revelation: she was told the students were novice English speakers; instead, they’re at the same skill level she is. And she’s going to have to teach them. There’s another weird type of horror for you–the “oh god, my imposter syndrome is actually true!”

A bad start for Mavi, but a great chapter for me, reading this.

These few chapters in, and I have to say, I definitely enjoy Mavi’s chapters. She’s so sympathetic. I’m not sure how I feel about Angel, yet. Maybe it’s that Mavi’s fears and problems are so concrete: she needs this job, the students are trouble, the whole set up is trouble, yet she came from worse, so she won’t walk away. Mavi is the classic hero of the haunted house novel—the one who stays because they lack the resources to go elsewhere. Angel? She’s sympathetic, but also morally weak, and her world is much more shapeless than Mavi’s. A ghost world for a time ghost girl.

I am having some trouble keeping myself to a couple of chapters at a time. But I will persevere! For one thing, I’m really enjoying thinking about each chapter after reading it, instead of blindly rushing forward on a wave of story emotion.

The Tenth Girl Slow Read: chapters 4 & 5

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