Review: The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White

Samantha Kavich ‘25 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is Andrew Joseph’s White second contribution to the YA Horror genre, following his widely acclaimed 2022 debut, Hell Followed With Us. Those who thought the masterful Hell Followed With Us would be difficult to follow up will be happy to know that The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is more than a match for its predecessor: another fresh, invigorating stand-alone novel that not only bares its magnificent teeth, but will leave readers’ chattering. 

The novel is told from the first-person perspective of Silas Bell, a sixteen-year-old living in an alternate Victorian England. Not only is Bell a transgender and autistic—both things there is no proper understanding of in this time period–but he is also a Medium, a person born with violet eyes who can see into the realm of ghosts. His violet eyes put Bell in high demand of being wed off to one of the members of the Royal Speaker Society, a Society spearheaded by men who want to protect (and control) England’s Mediums. Bell makes a risky gamble at escape that fails. Rather than face punishment, he is diagnosed with “Veil Sickness,” an affliction that allegedly affects violet-eyed women, and shipped off to Braxton’s Finishing School and Sanatorium to be “cured.” He soon realizes that even more is wrong with the sanatorium than there seems to be on the surface, and that the school is hiding dark, deadly secrets. 

Just like Hell Followed with Us, The Spirit Bares Its Teeth provides the reader with not only wonderful trans and queer representation, but also wonderful first-person representation of a character with autism. Bell is captivating as the novel’s narrator and protagonist; readers will root for him as well as the other characters—Daphne and Mary being particular standouts. Bell, whose lifelong dream is to become a surgeon, sees the world through medical analogies, which pairs wonderfully with White’s visceral and grisly writing style. The novel is chock-full of all the best things: angry, vengeful characters who deserve to be angry and vengeful, sweet, gentle romance, and body horror that will leave the reader squirming and staring at the wall, wondering what they’ve just read—in the best way. It’s not only a brilliant and deep exploration of the effects of ableism, but also a timely take on misogyny and the struggle of people who are assigned female at birth to maintain rights over their own bodies. It’s all topped off with a conclusion that’s equally shocking as it is satisfying. Having been released on September 5 of 2023, The Spirit Bares Its Teeth has already obtained a well-deserved Stonewall Honor award for LGBTQIA+ books. 

Horror readers will want to check out White’s work before his next novel, Compound Fracture, is set to come out on September 3rd of this year. If Compound Fracture is anything like the author’s previous two novels, it’s bound to be another wild, but meaningful ride that will put readers at the edge of their seats. 

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