Reviews for My throat an open grave

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

From an early age, girls from Winston are taught to fear the Lord of the Wood, to be virtuous, and to respect their patriarchs. Leah Jones would love nothing more than to graduate high school; relinquish care of her nine-month-old brother, Owen; and escape her myopic town. After successfully wishing her brother to be claimed by the Lord, Leah is coerced by her disdainful mother and their misogynistic town pastor to cross the river and plead for Owen’s return. For her part of the bargain, Leah must write a song for the Lord within one month. During this time, Leah finds refuge in the Hollow, where she unexpectedly builds friendships among the people and forms an attraction to the young, handsome Lord Tristan. Apprehensive about which village to trust, Leah endeavors to uncover the truth behind the disappearances of other Winston girls who bargained with the Lord—before her time runs out. As in The Devil Makes Three (2021), Bovalino again intertwines paranormal and romance for YA audiences. In this tale, religion is a recurring theme that will leave readers pondering who has authority to cast the first stone. A must-read for truth seekers and those hoping to glimpse a world built around kindness and acceptance.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A young woman reckons with the consequences of being an outcast and the risks of defining her own truth. Stuck in the dead-end Appalachian town of Winston, Pennsylvania, 17-year-old Leah has few plans and little hope for her future. Having to watch over Owen, the baby brother everyone fawns over, only fuels her frustration. When Owen goes missing from his crib while under her watch, Leah is forced to confront the dangers of the nearby woods. She takes responsibility for what happened, repeating self-recriminations that at times slow the pace, and enters the home of the mysterious Lord of the Wood, a feared otherworldly entity responsible for generations of missing children. Despite her lifetime of indoctrination with town lore warning against the perils of anything to do with the Lord, Leah proposes a bargain in exchange for Owen’s safe return—but failure would come at a steep price. The more time Leah spends away from home, the more she’s drawn to all she was raised to fear as she aims to redress the wrongs of Winston’s lost kids in a slow-burn, supernatural interrogation of what it means to be a “good girl.” Bovalino explores how young women attempt to balance social pressures and desire, and the result delivers slightly more suspense than terror. Leah reads white; there are brown-skinned supporting characters. A mild but satisfying blend of folk and psychological horror. (content warnings) (Horror. 14-18) Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
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Leah Jones has always known that her life was never going to extend beyond the borders of the small religious town of Winston, Pa., where she lives with her cruel mother and cares for her younger brother, Owen. Winston is ruled by the Lord of the Wood, a mysterious being who steals babies away into the surrounding forest, never to be seen again. When Owen is taken while Leah is supposed to be watching him, she’s forced into completing the only ritual that has a chance to get him back: going after and bargaining with the Lord. The fact that this ritual has never worked and has always resulted in the deaths of both child and bargainer is of no consequence to the townspeople. Left with no choice, Leah enters the Lord of the Wood’s domain. Beyond the trees, she discovers that the world she grew up hearing stories about looks far different than the horrors she had expected and learns that the myth of the Lord is something else entirely. In this darkly atmospheric tale of folk horror, Bovalino (Not Good for Maidens) employs sophisticated prose to perceptively examine the town’s unspecified oppressive religious institutions and how its tenets keep the young women of Winston from achieving their full potential or pursuing happiness. Characters are described as having varying skin tones. Ages 14–up. Agents: Uwe Stender and Amelia Appel, Triada US. (Feb.)

School Library Journal
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Gr 9 Up—With this novel, Bovalino has created a welcome addition to the paranormal genre that concentrates on just what it means to be good. Leah Jones has been taught by her community, and most especially by her mother, that her value is intrinsically meshed with her goodness as a human being. In order to be good in Leah's world of Winston, PA, she has to remain pure of body and thought or she runs the risk of attracting the Lord of the Wood, who has a cruel reputation for stealing generations of young women and children from town. When Leah's baby brother Owen is taken from his crib while under her care, her mother immediately demands that Leah sacrifice herself to the Lord of the Woods in an attempt to get Owen back, even though no one sacrificed has ever returned to Winston. Leah, harboring guilty thoughts of how nice her life had been before the arrival of baby Owen, agrees to be sent to the forest. The dichotomy between Leah's perception of the Lord of the Wood and his followers and the reality stuns Leah into reevaluating all aspects of her life, including her belief system and what it means to be good. Bovalino has created two very believable worlds that engage readers from the first page. Leah is white, but secondary characters are diverse, and one character is nonbinary. The book contains two mature scenes that makes this more appropriate for teens. VERDICT Recommended. Readers of Ava Reid's works will devour this book.—Susan Catlett