REVIEW: My Throat An Open Grave by Tori Bovalino

My Throat An Open Grave is Tori Bovalino’s third YA horror novel. After taking us through dark academia and the Goblin Market, this looks at the ideas behind changelings. Leah’s little brother has been taken by the Lord of the Forest. And her small town community blames her – and exiles her to return Owen. Once she leaves, Leah starts to realise that maybe the Lord of the Forest isn’t quite as bad as he’s made out to be. And perhaps there are deeper secrets buried within her religious community. Leah has to learn that whether good or bad, she has to accept who she is and make her own way. The novel explores themes of guilt, sin, teen pregnancy and the dangers of small-town religious communities.

My Throat An Open GraveOverall, I do feel like this could have been more. The ideas and themes are great, as is the writing. It just… doesn’t quite fit together. Deeper themes are not explored in quite enough detail, used rather as set dressing for the story in the foreground. I wish there had been more scope to look at the mental impact of living in such a stifled community, hints of defiance, and the complexity of a system in which children get taken and young women disappear. And for me, this bled into the characters. My Throat An Open Grave almost hits the spot. Like a faded old photo, I found the characters slightly faded, not going as deep as I believe the story could have taken them, which made it hard to connect emotionally.

Without going into detail, the story in My Throat An Open Grave is woven around Leah’s trauma. It is the story of a young woman finding ways to handle her past. This worked well, giving her space to grow through the story. I found this element to be handled really well. The slow reveal of Leah’s past and secrets created tension as well as moments of tenderness. Within the scope of the setting, she has hidden who she actually is to everyone – even to herself. I loved connecting the dots as the reader gets hints and unravel Leah as a person. It is glorious to see a young woman grow and become herself, no matter how messy that might be.

I particularly liked how My Throat An Open Grave explored tropes and familiar stories. The idea of a Lord of the Forest who takes only what is offered to him is fascinating, especially when you consider themes of guilt and overwhelm. It works as a tool to force conflict within the story, to up the stakes. Objectively, Leah and the Lord of the Forest are both – to an extent – evil people who do bad things. What the story does well is to balance out individual actions with their background, creating complex morality within the story. One of Bovalino’s big strengths is to move within that selfish, grey, morality and show that good or bad aren’t really possible. People are messy, and so are their actions. And that’s a good thing.

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Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne can usually be found with her nose in a book or two. Most of her life revolves around words, be that reading, writing, or editing. You can find more of her ramblings over on www.libridraconis.com, where she also reviews YA books and more lighthearted Fantasy and Science Fiction, as @FLSchwizer on Twitter, and @libri_draconis on Instagram. If you're curious about what she is currently reading, check out www.goodreads.com/libridraconis.