The River Has Teeth

HarperTeen. Jul. 2021. 400p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062894250.
Gr 9 Up–In this fast-paced fantasy, Waters tells the story of women—mothers, daughters, aunts, and partners—who are driven by their love for one another. Della Lloyd is a teenage witch who lives on the Bend, the parkland alongside a river that has been the source of her family’s magic for generations. When she meets Natasha Greymont, their attraction is unmistakable, but there’s one problem: Natasha’s sister is missing and Della’s mother may be responsible. This book has a thriller’s pacing but it is also beautifully atmospheric as it shows Della’s cluttered house smelling of earth and herbs and the foggy river bottom running by the Lloyds’ house. Through this tale of sirens and monsters, Waters reaches for a deeper meaning—a story about women who band together against those who would victimize them. While this message is compelling, this book centers the experiences of white characters while using a Black character, Georgia, to speak about the disproportionate violence against women of color. As a secondary character, Georgia’s perspective feels like an afterthought in an otherwise well-developed story around Natasha and Della.
VERDICT A moving, if imperfect, fantasy about the strength of women, recommended for those who enjoy thrillers with a social justice bent.

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