The Spirit Bares Its Teeth

Peachtree Teen. Sept. 2023. 400p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781682636114.
Gr 10 Up–The year is 1883 in London, England, and trans teen Silas realized early in life he was born in the wrong body. Since The Veil between the living and the dead has thinned throughout the country and the world, the Royal Speaker Society has emerged as a powerful group which recruits and trains mediums who can deal with hauntings of spirits directly. When Silas dresses as a man in an attempt to run away and join the Speakers, he is discovered and sent to Braxton’s Finishing School and Sanatorium. As Silas resists the Headmaster’s and Mrs. Forrester’s efforts to “correct” him with the proper role and etiquette as a woman in polite Victorian society, he begins to uncover mysterious past disappearances of several of the Braxton students. His potential suitor and co-conspirator Edward “Daphne” Luckenbill, a kindred spirit in more ways than one, agrees to help Silas get to the bottom of what happened to the girls. This novel provides a valuable lens into the historical perspective of trans identity. Readers will root for Silas, who only wants to do right by the other individuals held prisoner at Braxton, where each of the students face physical and emotional abuse at regular intervals. Some of the descriptions of surgery and vivisection are quite graphic and specific, so the story is definitely not for the faint of heart. While the worldbuilding of The Veil and the Speakers could be a little more established and fleshed out, this tale is nonetheless gripping, entertaining, and will keep readers guessing until the very end.
VERDICT A recommended purchase for YA fiction collections.

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