Cover Image: The Spirit Bares Its Teeth

The Spirit Bares Its Teeth

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Member Reviews

That was a creepy wild ride! Andre Joseph White has improved so much from Hell Followed With Us, the whole structure of the book is way more solid, and it really made me very happy, because i saw a lot of potential in the previous book. it just needed an extra bit of something and here it is..
That said, The spirit bares its teeth is is a book about misogyny, transphobia, and ableism from the perspective of an autistic transgender boy, packed with creepiness, horror, heartbreaks, graphic scenes. gore, mind games and so much more. It's a tragical and haunting journey through endurance and the starkness of life. It was brilliant, and meaningful, and very well executed.

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If I had to pick a word to describe THE SPIRIT BARES ITS TEETH it would be ‘fierce’.
It’s as much a historical novel as it is a horror, and gives a paranormal take on the sort of medical practices and experimentation that were once used against women (and, as THE SPIRIT BARES ITS TEETH points out, trans men) to ‘cure’ them of various ‘ills’. This isn’t an easy book – there’s vivisection, transphobia, mutilation, and gore throughout.
Medical and/or body horror is usually on my ‘absolutely not’ list of book/film topics, but for some reason it worked for me in THE SPIRIT BARES ITS TEETH (I was going to say ‘it didn’t bother me’ but that’s completely missing the point) – it’s horrific, as it should be, used to hammer home points about patriarchy, medical abuse (the author’s note at the back provides further NF reading, especially relating to people of colour) and body dysmorphia.
I loved Silas’ character. His kindness and inner strength – endurance – is contrasted throughout by an inner voice – a rabbit – that taunts and snipes and hammers home all his deepest fears and insecurities. I loved that Andrew Joseph White allowed Silas (and the girls at Braxton’s) to be angry and messy and complicated. There’s an urgency to all of the characters, a frantic press for survival, as well as acceptance, that doesn’t compromise or flinch from what has to be done.
I did find the beginning of the story a touch on the slow side, and the world-building a little difficult to get my head around at the start, but by the time I was a few chapters in, I was utterly hooked.

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AJW has written two books and is already and auto read author for me. His works deal with trans and LGBTQ+ identities, as well as neurodivergent individuals who exist in a time and place that are antithetical to their exist. Seeing his characters having to grow in these harsh environments is both educational for those who don't know about the history of asylums, as well as what certain traits look like in individuals who don't have the words for their living experiences.

The body horror that fits right in with this type of identity struggle is necessary to read, and makes one think about their own relationship with their body, whether or not they are comfortable with their gender identity. Lots of introspection took place for me while I read this book, and it is a very important read for those who are also struggling with the words to describe their lived experiences.

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4.5 Stars

Now that I’ve read two books from Andrew, I can confidently say that his fiction is always going to perfectly walk the line between gruesomeness and profound catharsis. I think both this book and “Hell Followed With Us” are deeply, deeply horrific in very different ways but also very effective ways.

Like I said in my Anticipated Releases video, if “Hell Followed With Us” was Andrew’s trans rage book, then “The Spirit Bares Its Teeth” is his disabled trans rage book. This grisly manifesto railing against systemic ableism is so incredibly needed, and it makes all too much sense that Silas’ struggle against those ideologies is a violent one.

This book is definitely not for the faint of heart, but I love it for that. And I think one way that the story keeps you immersed in the morbid atmosphere and grounded in this horrific sense of urgency is in the use of language. Silas is an aspiring surgeon. He has studied Victorian medicine and surgical procedures from his older brother. So he sees the world through that lens, often likening things that he observes to medical procedures, which are all extremely violent and crude during this time period. So that continuity of language is extremely effective. It gives us a strong insight into how Silas’ mind works, and thematically it’s powerful, because it echoes the story’s thesis statement.

To me, that metaphor of crude medical practices and Silas’ obsession with them represents the idea that even though the process itself may be gruesome or seemingly impossible to bear, healing and recovery and having a better chance of life are possible, even considering that cost. And I think it makes all the sense in the world that Silas wants to not only be on the other end of that as someone who’s been forcibly repressed and denied his entire life, but to be the person who is in *control* of those processes, especially when so many medical professional—even now—abuse that kind of power.

But most importantly, there is incredible nuance on display in this story, specifically in the way it distinguishes between the act of seeking validation and becoming in the arbiter of your *own* validation. On the surface, it might seem like this story is about Silas wanting to prove himself—as a man, as a surgeon, as a disabled person with autonomy—and, on some level, he is. But the truth of the matter is that he *is* all of those things from the very first page and it’s just the world that fails to see it. So in all actuality, it’s not about Silas seeking these pathways towards legibility, but rather realizing that he is the only one who can decide who he is. He is not broken, he does not need to be changed, he does not need to be fixed. The world needs to catch up to where he is.

I don’t know if I’m doing this book justice, but I loved it. It’s disturbing, it's gross, it’s unsettling, but it’s incredibly powerful and undeniable in its purpose. I could not tear my eyes away from it every time I picked it up, and it's easily one of my favorite reads of the year so far.

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CONTENT WARNING: transphobia, ableism, graphic violence, sexual assault, discussions of forced pregnancy and miscarriage, mentions of suicidal ideation, extensive medical gore

After having read White’s first book, I had an inkling of what to expect from this one—a great story, fiercely angry characters, and a whole lot of gore. I was not let down. It’s a combination of horror, historical fiction, mystery, and romance, and somehow the mixture works beautifully.

Silas is 16 years old, and all he wants to do is be a surgeon. Which shouldn’t be an issue, expect that he’s got violet eyes and the rest of the world sees him as he appears on the outside—as a girl—and not how he actually is on the inside, a boy. In addition, he’s autistic, and has had extensive tutoring to hide any signs of it from the rest of the world, although he still struggles with certain things and resorts back to flapping his hands and other behaviors when he’s in stressful or upsetting situations. It’s hard not to empathize with Silas. He’s in an impossible situation, and it keeps going from bad to worse.

After a desperate attempt to avoid a forced marriage that he doesn’t want goes wrong, he finds himself forced into a finishing school for violet-eyed girls with Veil sickness. The girls at the school are trained to become magical Stepford wives, basically, and those who don’t cooperate disappear.

I found it so interesting to read about the magic system in this story—women with violet-colored eyes can access the Veil, the border between the living and the dead, and function as mediums, but men want to control them. Veil sickness seems to be a way that the Speakers explain away any behavior among their women that doesn’t conform to their expectations. The other girls at the school were equally intriguing to me, and I enjoyed watching Silas get to know them and develop bonds with some of them.

The treatment of people who were viewed as “different” in these times was incredibly difficult and frustrating to read about. While this book is fiction, things like this aren’t hard to imagine happening in the not-so-distant past, and they did in fact occur. This story brims with rage and pain and frustration, and every single bit of each of these emotions is well-deserved. I was sucked into this story immediately, and it took up space in my head until I finished reading, even while I was on vacation, and it still resides in a corner of my brain. Andrew Joseph White has become one of my favorite new authors, and he’s definitely one to watch, as long as you can handle the gore, which features prominently in his books, the stories are outstanding.

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The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is a gruesome look at patriarchy, and what women will do to survive.

DO NOT READ if medical gore is a trigger for you. Andrew Joseph White is a master.

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Hell Followed With Us was my favorite read of 2022, so I had high hopes for Spirit Bares Its Teeth - and I was not disappointed! Hauntingly terrifying with nuanced explorations of transness, autism, and institutionalization.

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Well,after reading this gorgeous piece of YA fiction I am now forced to move 'Hell Follows with Us' farther up my TBR. This book exceeded all of my expectations. The main character is just so incredibly lovable and relatable, and his experience is well-expressed. I was able to predict what was going to happen next, but by the time they came to fruition, I had convinced myself I was wrong.

This author created a tale so captivating I couldn't stop reading- I can't wait to force everyone around me to read. The only thing I would change is that I wish there was more lore. I was left wanting more information about the mysterious world; more world-building, and this would have easily been a five-star rating.

I can't wait for whatever comes next.

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Andrew Joseph White is a genius. THE SPIRIT BARES ITS TEETH is a horror that every teen, and every person, should read at least once in their lives. Everything about it is a masterpiece. 5 stars, no notes.

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This book had my heart racing during multiple chapters. I have a very vivid imagination, and this story played like a film in my head. It’s written absolutely stunningly. I’m always overjoyed when I get to read prominent queer rep in a book, and this did just that. This was perfect for the Halloween season, I look forward to reading more by this author. I received this book as an eARC.

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The spirit bares its teeth was a great read, perfect for when I was wishing it was fall but stuck inside on a hot summers day. I was able to pretend quite nicely!
I was initially attracted by the cover of this book; it’s so cute! The description really drew me in and i got through it slowly but surely. I did find it a little hard to get into at first, but around 1/4 way in it picked up some speed and i finished it in 2 sittings after that.
I liked the writing style and the world building, and overall would recommend this book!

Thanks so much for the ARC!

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What a book. This was definitely an experience unlike any I’ve ever taken.

I appreciated the raw and real emotions the main transgender character goes through. Over and over, we as the reader gets to feel how much he’s a boy regardless of his body.

He’s thrown in an awful reform house that tries to retrain him to be the woman he’s “supposed” to be.

This is one of those slow burn, utterly horrifying experiences that was just so darn important.

Thank you Netgalley and the Publisher for allowing me to read this for my honest review. White is an author I’ll be watching for and picking up books from in the future.

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It was highly uncomfortable to read. I wanted to stop reading it but I couldn’t. The letter at the beginning of the book should be fully read. Less than halfway through the book I understood the letter. There were a lot of times in the book when I needed to take a break. I loved each of the girls so much. I loved how the author wrote out how the “sickness” was affecting them. It was so realistic with how some people wanna get out or some people will get told things over and over and believe it is true after a while. I actually really liked the ending. I don’t know how I would’ve answered that either. From the point of view of me reading this book yeah I know my answer is yes but if I was him I don’t know how I would answer. He was very very brave all throughout this book. The plot twist towards the end was scary and sad. I loved this book so much. I am now going to read everything this author writes.
Thank you so much Andrew Joseph White and Netgalley for the Arc.

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Another homerun for White, this book is smart and sharp and everything you could ever want from a horror novel. I will be making everyone I know read this book.

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this book was so good. It has an intriguing setting, interesting premise, a compelling romance and great characters. Definitely a step up from this author's previous novel and you can tell. I cant wait to see what he writes next.

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Representation: Autistic trans MC, trans love interest, majority woman ensemble

The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White. Set in London during the height of spiritualism in 1883. Violet-eyed mediums are able to commune with spirits through the thinned Veil, but only those who are approved by the Royal Speaker Society. Silas Bell hates it all, and he does not want to become the wife of a Speaker. He’s had extensive tutoring to mask his autism, has deep interest in surgery, and knows a simple fact: he is a boy, not the girl that everyone sees. Yet, his mother just told him that he’ll be married soon, so Silas attempts to escape. He tries to become a licensed medium by using another boy’s name, gets caught and is diagnosed with Veil sickness, which is supposedly a disease making violet-eyed women mad. He’s shipped to a sanatorium where the staff are cruel, the facility is awful, and the students either shape up or disappear. The other girls were sent here for varying reasons, and they’re all terrified of what’s to come. In Silas’ suffering, he hears from the ghosts of missing students begging for help and decides he has to put an end to this rotten school and its upholding of sexist and abusive traditions.

Rating: 5/5 This is the second book I’ve read by White, and he is SO good at writing body horror, gory stories that don’t hold back, showing how disgusting humanity can be to those they want hidden. There are so many trigger warnings for this book, but the big ones are misogyny, misgendering, deadnaming, sexual assault, body horror and gore. Silas is an autistic trans boy stuck in an extremely gendered and ordered society. I really love the tenacity of Silas, despite him being overwhelmed multiple times by neurotypicals expecting him to just conform and do the obvious. He *knows* himself, and will fight to keep his sense of self, no matter how hard people try to stamp it out. I loved the girls at the school, even the annoying ones, they grew on me. I enjoyed the other trans character, and wish we saw more of her, but the amount that we saw her makes sense in the story. If you enjoyed White's other book, you will love this as well. Highly recommended for those who like queer horror.

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*5 stars*

This is just as disgusting and horrific as Hell Followed with Us, an incredible sophomore novel that brilliantly showcases White’s genius. The horror is unparalleled and the heart is gruesomely splattered on every page. I have never felt physically ill reading a story until The Spirit Bares It’s Teeth; the writing is incredibly visceral and haunting.

The dedication says “For the kids with open wounds they’re still learning to stitch close”. I wish I’d had this as a queer autistic kid but as an adult it is no less impactful. It fills me with absolute joy that this is out in the world for all the trans, queer, autistic, or wounded kids.

This is not an easy read, trigger warnings absolutely must be checked and can easily be done so with the author’s note, but it is beautiful, heartbreaking, and so incredibly necessary.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this work. All opinions in this review are my own.

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Andrew Joseph White has done it again. I absolutely loved Hell Followed With Us! I am also trying to get more into horror (I love the concept but am also a huge baby), and TSBIT was a perfect read. It blended together the state of London in the late 1880s with queer discourse and personal struggle. Watching Silas get sent to Braxton’s to turn him into a “proper wife” was gut-wrenching. The medical scenes were hard to read through, but added to the overall trauma each character had to go through. I very much enjoyed this book, and can’t wait to read Compound Fracture when it comes out!

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I knew I was in for a wild ride of a book just by the introduction. Andrew Joseph White introduces his book with a letter from the author, opening with: "One of the cruel injustices in this world is that survival hurts sometimes." He goes on to list the triggers that will come up in this book, and tells the reader there is no shame in walking away from reading if at any point it becomes too painful or harmful.
This sounds dramatic, but it is not. The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is a beautiful book, but it contains horrific things, and might not be the book for every reader. It is a fantasy book, but its horror is purely realistic. It tells the story of a trans boy with violet eyes-- in a world where violet eyes mean an ability to converse with the spirit realm, but that only allows men to practice this gift. The women born with violet eyes are used for little more than their wombs, and they are expected to feel honored for the privilege.
This poses numerous problems for Silas, whom the world will only acknowledge as Gloria. Silas knows he is a boy, and the idea of being forced into marriage and motherhood is horrific. Silas wants to be a doctor and a spirit-worker, both professions only available to men. Shortly after the beginning of the book, Silas is forced to attend a reformatory school for violet-eyed girls whose sole purpose is making them marriageable.
This book contains magical and spiritual elements, but the horror comes from the very real violence men have inflicted upon women and other marginalized communities since the dawn of time. Silas is trans and autistic, and there is another character who is lesbian, but no one in this book is safe unless they are rich, educated men. The book did an amazing job of creating a microcosm of characters that reflected a larger slice of society so well-- White was able to show class struggles, power dynamics, even internalized misogyny within a relatively small group of characters, yet still keep the reader's focus on the overlaying story. It was incredibly well done.
At the end of the book White writes in an afterword that he tried to stick fairly close to what might have actually taken place in this Victorian era (with the addition of magic) but acknowledged that communities of color historically fared far, far worse in medical experimentation and even listed a few non-fiction books for further reading.
As for the story itself, I loved it. I loved the characters, who were all so well-rounded. I loved Silas, being in his mind and watching him struggle with trying to fit in yet remain true to himself. I thought the mystery in the book was handled well, and I loved the magic. I wish there was more done with the spirits themselves, but the ending is open enough that White could make this into a series if he feels like it.
I am a cis/het female, and I state this because there were parts of this book that I cannot speak to. I don't know if this book would be as powerful to an LGBTQ individual as it was to me, or if the triggers in it would make it too traumatic. I do know that the parts of the book that spoke to a woman's experience at the hands of men rang so true. And though there were parts that were gruesome, I never, not once, got the feeling like there was violence on page for entertainment's sake. Every bit of it was used to hit home for the reader the gravity of what took place, and to force someone who might not naturally understand a little bit of revelation. I think this book is of great value to people who are not trans specifically for that reason, to understand just a bit what it might be like and to learn some empathy.

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From the very first page, Andrew Joseph White had me hooked. The Spirit Bares Its Teeth beautifully blends a paranormal story into 1883 London where violet-eyed mediums can commune with spirits, but can also cause women to suffer from Veil sickness - a mystery disease that sends them into madness or “hysteria”.

Our main character Silas, a young trans man, is diagnosed with Veil sickness and sent to Braxton’s Sanitorium and Finishing School and the story unravels further when he discovers some women sent to Braxton’s have disappeared. Silas teams up with some equally amazing characters to help expose what is really going on at Braxton’s.
The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is perfect for those that love spooky historical fantasies, have a curiosity for old medical practices especially concerning hysteria, and can handle gore.

Thank you Peachtree Teen and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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