ARC Review: The Hollow Girl – Hillary Monahan

The Hollow Girl
Book cover: Bethan stands between trees, red smoke billowing on the ground.

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.

I received an ARC of The Hollow Girl from Netgalley. I decided to request this book because it was a story about revenge and a victim of rape seeking justice. It’s written by Hilary Monahan, who is also a survivor of rape, so I was pretty sure it would be written respectfully. I don’t usually read horror, however this was something that I thought I might like.

This book is #ownvoices for Romany and multiracial representation.

This book was a difficult read. It was a good read, but very difficult. I’m not someone who cries easily when I’m reading a book, and while I didn’t cry with this book, my eyes were wet and my heart was pounding.

Most of the rape scene takes place off the pages, yet even so, it made me quite upset. However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t written respectfully. This truly is one of the books that has a very respectful portrayal of the rape and the rape survivor. It’s not tokenising, neither is it used to decorate the plot, or to make the story more enticing. The writing touches on how Bethan deals with being a rape victim, and doesn’t center the feelings of the other characters.

One could argue that the revenge she takes is harsh and cruel, however, what would you do in her place? To save Martyn, she must take from those who assaulted her. (And before someone comments on this review, saying that only one boy raped her, just don’t comment that. Just because the other boys didn’t rape her, doesn’t mean that they aren’t complicit in assaulting her and in her rape.) If the boys give willingly, they only lose one part of them. It is a harsh choice, but it allows them to have a choice in their punishment, a choice that Bethan did not have.

The writing is excellent. The characters and scenes are described in such detail (showing not telling). The symbolic comparisons also allowed for a more engaging experience with the story. The book came alive in my mind.

This is a book where not only the actual text is amazing. I really recommend not skipping the foreword and the acknowledgements, as it gives you a wealth of information about the story.

I have some criticism, but it is very small. First of all, I didn’t like that Gran said that if a character was too blind to realise her power, he doesn’t deserve his eyes. He wasn’t unable to see her power, he just didn’t want to see her power or didn’t acknowledge it. Saying he was blind insinuates that he was unable to see it. The book also mentioned that a penis symbolises maleness. Two of the minor female characters mentioned that only women can understand rape, which insinuates that only women get raped. I wouldn’t have had a problem with the latter, if it had been acknowledged somewhere that this is not always true.

I wholly recommend The Hollow Girl.  It’s an exhausting read. But it’s a good read. It’s cathartic. If you are thinking of buying the book, please make sure that you check the trigger warnings.

I will certainly be looking out for new releases by Hillary Monahan.

Trigger warnings: rape, sexual abuse, murder, racism, violence.

4 stars

Have you read The Hollow Girl? Are you interested in reading it?


9 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Hollow Girl – Hillary Monahan

  1. I honestly can’t wait to read it! (Though I have to until the end of December but I can do that.) I haven’t read many horror books but it’s a genre I think I’ll really like. Not just that, the book generally sounds great. Sad, harsh and like a difficult read – but like a great book.


  2. It isn’t easy for a novel to address such difficult topics in a respectful way. I’m glad to hear that this one succeeds (mostly) at doing it. The subject matter is too intense (and too close to my practice area in my professional life) for me to read. I like my fiction to be an escape.


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