Title: The Hollow Girl
Author: Hillary Monahan
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: October 10th 2017
*I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not influence my review*
Hillary Monahan’s The Hollow Girl is one of the few books that I would strongly suggest reading the synopsis of before diving in. The storyline involves the rape of the protagonist and how this dramatically changes her, as well as following her quest for retribution. Knowing the inevitable assault was coming did not make the beginning of the story any easier to read. There’s a lot of building tension that is both frustrating and representative of what the character is about to go through. The reader knows what’s coming, but is powerless to stop it. So many times we see the rape of a character used to shock audiences or propel another character’s arc forward. In The Hollow Girl, rape isn’t used for shock value and thus the author is able to approach it with sensitivity to the victim by centering Bethan.
Bethan has been raised as the eventual successor to the drabarni in her Romani clan. As drabarni, “Gran” functions as a healer to her people and is well respected within the community. Bethan has spent a considerable amount of time learning herbcraft, but has always been more interested in Gran’s other magical talents. To outsiders, the most that is shared is a cure for common ailments or a charm for dreams, but Bethan knows that Gran has greater power than this. After Bethan is raped, Gran offers her the opportunity to learn the craft in order to save the life of her new friend Martyn by taking something from the individuals responsible. Bethan learns that this kind of magic is costly. It not only demands sacrifice from these violators, but also demands her to do things she never thought herself capable of.
Bethan’s strongest relationship is with Gran. Though the older woman is harsh at times, she looks out for Bethan in her own way. Gran is a character who I won’t soon forget. She’s fierce, strong, and with a few words can induce fear in others. Bethan slowly begins to understand what it truly means to be drabarni by following Gran’s lead and in so doing gains a more complete understanding of her mentor. Bethan has always believed she will follow in Gran’s footsteps, but the accumulation of her experiences, has her calling this belief into question. I’m a big fan of fictional witches, but am mostly drawn to darker depictions. I loved the details in this one when it came to the witchcraft. It was messy and gruesome, but by making it so the author is able to show that these facts take a toll on the wielder of magic.
The Hollow Girl is not an easy read. It can be an emotionally exhausting experience. It is however an important story about a girl who endures a horrific trauma, but who takes back control of her life.