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My Throat an Open Grave

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Member Reviews

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my e-ARC of My Throat an Open Grave!

𝐑𝐄𝐀𝐃 𝐓𝐇𝐈𝐒 𝐈𝐅 𝐘𝐎𝐔
🌲 are looking for a dark and atmospheric read
🧝🏻 loved the movie Labyrinth
💕 want a YA romance
👥 enjoy cult-driven novels

• 𝐖𝐇𝐀𝐓 𝐈𝐓’𝐒 𝐀𝐁𝐎𝐔𝐓

Growing up in the small town of Winston, Pennsylvania feels like drowning. Leah goes to church every Sunday, works when she isn’t at school, and takes care of her baby brother, Owen. Like every girl in Winston, she tries to be right and good and holy. If she isn’t the Lord of the Wood will take her, and she’ll disappear like so many other girls before her.

But living up to the rigorous standards of the town takes its toll. One night, when Owen won’t stop screaming, Leah wishes him away, and the Lord listens. The screaming stops, and all that’s left in the crib is a small bundle of sticks tied with a ribbon.

Filled with shame and the weight of the town’s judgment, Leah is forced to cross the river into the Lord of the Wood’s domain to bring Owen back. But the devilish figure who has haunted Winston for generations isn’t what she expects. He tells her she can have her brother back―for the price of a song. A song that Leah will have one month to write.

It’s a bargain that will uncover secrets her hometown has tried to keep buried for decades. And what she unearths will have her questioning everything she’s been taught to fear.

• 𝐌𝐘 𝐓𝐇𝐎𝐔𝐆𝐇𝐓𝐒

This was a really different and interesting read. Apparently it is heavily based on the movie Labyrinth, which I haven’t seen since I was fairly young. It starts out strong, but ultimately loses me about halfway through the story as the MC, Leah, seems to start falling for the Lord of the Woods, which just isn’t the direction I thought the book was headed in whatsoever. However, I loved the woods and how everything worked in this “realm” where time doesn’t operate in the same way. When Leah was essentially a ghost, was probably one of my favorite scenes. Overall, definitely pick this one up if you’re a fan of YA reads with a dark atmosphere!

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I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did. I loved the main characters and enjoyed the fable-like plotting of the story. This is the very classic bare-bones story of: person 1 is kidnapped; person 2 must go on a journey to rescue person 1; person 2 must strike a bargain/complete a task to release person 1. I love stories that remind me of fairytales and make me feel immersed in a magic world, and this book delivered on those points.

I also really loved the main character Leah’s voice and character development. She is struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and possibly OCD due to religious trauma. Even though I have very different life experiences to her, I felt much the same when I was her age. Reading her internal monologue about never feeling good enough, feeling like a burden, etc. rang very true to me as someone who has also struggled with mental illness.

The world-building reminds me of a classic fairytale, where things just are the way they are without much explanation. At times I wish the world’s lore had been fleshed out a little more. I also wish the love story had been developed a little more — in my opinion, the book could’ve been 50-75 pages longer.

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Labyrinth retelling with more horror tones. If you're a fan of the 80's movie, then you will appreciate this book. A solid read, I found the characters the best part of this story. Yes, they're flawed, but that's what makes them relatable. That's what draws you in.

Full disclosure-- I had to rewatch the movie after reading this book.

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The perfect culmination of horror and Labyrinth! The prose is beautiful and the story is so gripping I was hard pressed to put it down!

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My Throat an Open Grave by Tori Bovalino (she/her)
Genre: young adult, folk horror, urban fantasy, romance (subplot)
Rating: 4.5 stars
ARC review

Thank you NetGalley and Page Street YA for my ARC of this book! This is my honest review and all opinions are my own.

“I am a mangled thing. I am soiled black with sin.”

In a small Appalachian town, lives Leah Jones and her baby brother, Owen. One night after an exhausting work shift and trying to get the baby to sleep; he just won't stop screaming. She wishes him away to the Lord of the Wood. The screaming stops and all that is left is a still warm cradle and a bundle of sticks. Leah is forced to search for her brother and return him to the town. After the Lord of the Wood finds her, they make a deal: if she can write a song for him in one month, she and her brother can leave. But things are not as they seem, she feels safer here, far away from the choking expectations of the town and its inhabitants. Ghosts of her hometown are unearthed and Leah has to find out the truth, no matter if it leads to her death.

When I requested this book on NetGalley, I’ll be honest, I was expecting a YA romance that is inspired by the movie Labyrinth. I was expecting something fun, light, and easy to read with a splash of folklore. MY THROAT AN OPEN GRAVE was nowhere near any of that, and I loved it because of it.

MY THROAT AN OPEN GRAVE was about small towns, purity culture, religious trauma, how angry the dead can be, Lady Macbeth Syndrome, and the “otherness” that comes with finding faults in those ideals. When I finished reading it, I just sat on my bed at 2:26 am crying for no reason I could identify besides the fact that I felt seen. Have I ever gone into the woods to find my baby brother and bring him home? No. Did I have to write a song to bring him back? No. Have I ever found solace in water? No. But I have lived in two very small towns, seen what religion when placed in the wrong hands can do, how lost you feel, and been coached on “violations” before marriage in a school gymnasium. I remember the stale air, how quietly we went into the locker room to change for our gym class, not a single one of us saying a word. That is what this book is about. How oppressive that need to be perfect is at that moment. How after so many years, you are just done.

One of the major things I loved about this book were the metaphors and symbolism of water. Leah takes solace in the water, she loves it and feels pure and whole when in it. She is constantly bathing herself and trying to wash away her past. I interpreted a lot of this to be Bovalino’s exploration of Lady Macbeth Syndrome, and I will say that it was done beautifully. I loved every hidden metaphor, every long bath scene. Even when the water is used as a weapon against the main character time and time again.

“I’ve always felt best in water. Like I’m come undone. Clean.”

Another thing in this novel that surprised me was the folklore. While it is a main part of the novel, it is not in the way you would think. While Leah is in Winston, the Lord of the Wood is this terrifying creature coming to take babies away. He is used as the town’s main weapon of defense in keeping its inhabitants in line. “Do what you are supposed to, or the Lord of the Wood will come for your children.” In a way it reminds me a lot of Krampus and the constant threat of him against young children. However, when Leah does her own deconstruction, the folklore takes more of an important role. It helps her and guides her to the truth time and time again.

MY THROAT AN OPEN GRAVE is going to be a novel that I will be referencing multiple times in reviews to come. In more ways than one, it reminded me of The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White and the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christen Andersen. MY THROAT AN OPEN GRAVE caused that deep pang to shoot from my gut straight to my heart moments before a character says something. Just knowing what they are going to say before they do and knowing you can do nothing to stop it. That is the experience I will remember most about reading this book.

I highly recommend this book (if that was not apparent already by the very incomprehensible essay style review) and will not stop thinking about this haunting story for a very long time. I will most likely be getting a physical copy just to have, to sleep with it under my pillow, and annotated to my heart's content. I am also hoping to read the rest of Bovalino’s published works after finishing this one. If they cause even a fraction of the reaction I had to reading this novel, I know I will love them as well.

Please note that quotes used are from an advanced reader copy and may be subject to change in the final copy of the book.

MY THROAT AN OPEN GRAVE will be released on February 20th.

CW: blood, death, animal death (deer), body horror, suicidal ideation, religious trauma, purity culture, pregnancy, death of a family member (in the past)

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My gods, Tori Bovalino's writing is beautiful. The cover, title, and premise of the book hooked me before I'd even read the first page. My Throat an Open Grave is a wonderfully dark and twisted tale of belonging and what it means to be good. Leah, the main character, feels so real. Tori Bovalino did a fantastic job of creating a relatable, real character with flaws that made me love her even more. This novel has helped me see a part of myself that I didn't realize I'd buried years ago.

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Thank you to Titan Books, Page Street Publishing and NetGalley for the arc.

My Throat and Open Grave is an eerily whimsical ya fantasy novel that is reminiscent of Labyrinth without the weird 40 year old dude hitting on a 15 year old thing.

I must admit, at first I wasn’t impressed by the book. It read like most YA fantasy novels where the main character “isn’t like other girls” and for some reason has the power to change everything…. Until the first twist happens. Her brother Owen has gone missing, and it is because she begged the Lord of the Wood to take him away.

The twists in this book layer what is familiar with ya tropes and twists them in a new and raw way that leaves a brilliant sense of originality to the story as a whole. I read this in one sitting, and the ending was honestly quite honest. Sometimes we aren’t meant to be what the world designs us to be, that there are better futures for us. We just have to look for them first.

Overall, a very enjoyable read that will be liked by the masses I’m sure.

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I was drawn in by the stunning cover and was absolutely not disappointed! The atmospheric tension and suspense, the yearning trickles of romance, and an ending I absolutely didn't see coming made for a fantastic reading experience.

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I'm sorry I did not liked it...

I don't know if that was the writing that lost me or the story, but I couldn't keep following the story... I did not finished the book...

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My Throat an Open Grave was one of my most anticipated reads for 2024. The writing was beautiful, and the book certainly delivered the dark, ominous atmosphere that was promised. It's the type of story that's perfect for a cold winter night, curled up with a cup of tea. Unfortunately, as beautiful as the story was, I did feel that the plot dragged on at times. The opening chapters felt particularly slow, with the pace picking up shortly after that. I would still recommend the book to readers for Bovalino's beautiful writing alone even though it wasn't my favorite read.

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My Throat an Open Grave by Tori Bovalino is a young adult fantasy horror that follows Leah, a young woman who who is working to help make ends meet after dropping out of high school. In the mysterious town she lives in, babies are often taken by the elusive Lord of the Wood and never seen again. When Leah’s brother becomes the most recent baby taken, Leah has to cross into the Lord of the Wood’s domain to try and get him back and make it home alive.

I really enjoyed this book. The writing and atmosphere were engaging and I liked Leah as a character. This book has a lot of heavy topics including religion and feeling ostracized from a community that were handled in a way I wasn’t expecting. There is a bit of a romance in this story but it isn’t too over the top and is definitely not the main focus.

I wish this author would write an adult novel and delve further into certain themes. I feel like the young adult genre just doesn’t allow for that as much as adult books do so that made this book not the perfect read for me but very enjoyable nonetheless.

I saw this book pitched as a Labyrinth retelling and while there were a few nods on it, it isn’t really a retelling so don’t go into it expecting Labyrinth again.

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My Throat an Open Grave is a book that immediately grabbed my attention with that cover. It’s absolutely stunning.

I’ve not read from this author before so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was really interested in the story from the beginning. I flew through the first 35% but then the middle did drag a little for me.

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absolutely losing my mind over this book. the religious guilt/trauma and small town you can never escape was written so well. I loved!!! the dynamic of the LoW and Leah, yes it felt like a typical YA fantasy but that’s exactly what I loved. It had the premise of what reminded me of early 2010s YA romances but with far more mutual respect and no toxicity. it was a short read but it was well paced, the world building felt realized and the character arcs were tied together and wrapped up well in the end.

thank you to NetGalley for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

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Thank you to NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Tori Bovalino has crafted a sharp, wrenching, and atmospheric story here. She skillfully balances the (fairly light) horror aspects with impactful and relevant themes. My Throat an Open Grave was a lot shorter than I'd expected it to be, but honestly that's just another indication of how impressive this book is.

There were probably one or two too many side characters that could have been left out to give the others more space, but that's really it. A lot of the themes really hit home, and the ending was very satisfying. 4/5.

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i love a good retelling and horror theme? awesome! I really enjoyed the thiller horror genre and i think it was definitely a strong book

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This delightfully gothic tale tells a sweet coming of age story of a girl in a overbearing and speculative Christian town.

Exploring the grief and social alienation/shame that it’s often accompanied by teen pregnancy in a small town.

With the mystery of how each girl who the town has fostered into sacred sacrifices, were murdered in their return home. The MC Leah is no longer just trapped with the Lord of the Woods desperate to find who she is and who she could be with him. She is now dead set on preventing her own murder.

An absolutely wonderful read that I can’t wait to hit the shelves.

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This dark fantasy Labyrinth retelling centres on guilt-ridden teenager Leah Jones as she follows her kidnapped baby brother into the eerie realm of the Lord of the Wood.

To me, it's a great example of the recently popular 'subtle horror' genre. While it lacks the keep-you-up-at-night scares, it uses magic realism to delve into the horrors of real life trauma, exemplifying how scary that can be to work through.

It's written in gorgeous gothic prose – a kind of haunting lyricism that beautifies ghostly, growing things and softens the sharp edges of bones. It's heavy with metaphor, alluding to the various symbolisms of blood and the stark dichotomy of dark and light, good and evil, which Leah believes are her only two choices.

At its heart, it deals with religious trauma and the damage the distortion of Biblical teaching can cause, especially for young girls. The book makes clear that the brutal, awful ways Leah is treated do not align with the teachings of the faith her community claims to have. As a Christian I beg anyone who reads this to note that the book condemns and villainises those who manipulate God's word for their own sadistic ends, but does not speak against the true saving power of faith or the Christian belief system itself.

It's only a short book (I read it in two days) but it still manages to leave space for character growth, mystery and gentle romance. I recommend it to those looking for YA books in the subtle horror genre (just check the trigger warnings first).

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Tori Bovalino blew me away with Not Good for Maidens and solidified herself as an auto-buy author for me. I have come to expect dark and spooky when it comes to her books, but this one missed the mark for me.

My main qualm was probably that I couldn't plant my feet in the modern world; I kept picturing Leah's town as a fantasy town and not rooted in the real world. A lot of what happens in the first quarter of the book confused the crap out of me. Her mother was so cold and the reason for Owen's disappearance was so odd. I know the theme of religious oppression is strong, but I couldn't plant my feet from the start.

Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies of all time, but I failed to see the similarities other than a disappearing brother by The Lord of the Wood, who turns out to be an attractive young man who is not as scary as Leah thought. This revelation took away a lot of the tension in the story, transforming it into a typical YA fantasy romance.

Overall, this was an atmospheric, unique read, but was a little too light for such a dark cover and title.

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90/100 or 4.50 stars

Thank you to NetGalley for providing the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This was great! This story has both atmosphere/vibes and a good plot. This story is also a great choice for book clubs, as the themes within the story are relevant always. This is the first book I have read by this author, but it is certainly not the last! I had a good time with this and will try to get my hands on a physical copy when the book is released.

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I don't see myself healing from my weakness to resist a pretty cover anytime soon and this cover is gorgeous. The novel is graces is a lot more young adult than I expected, so though this was enjoyable, I wanted it to be darker.

My Throat an Open Grave is a quote directly taken out of the Bible and is the title of the story about Leah Jones. The high schooler lives in Winston, Pennsylvania, where she's facing a pretty gloomy outlook on life. She's barely managing to keep her job at a gas station and caring for her baby brother Owen, when said brother is taken by the Lord of the Woods. Leah now has to write a song in order to win him back, which forces her to examine the depths of what went so wrong in her life.

It's about religious and emotional oppression and standing up to face your fears. In a similar fashion to many other novels that came out in recent times such as Wayward and VenCo, this story explores the role of women who don't obey the rules society has caved out for them. In her world, Leah is a misfit, someone who doesn't believe like her religious town would like her to. The contrast is shown quite clearly: in the novel, the residents of Winston are afraid of the Lord of the Woods and his land, but as a reader, we learn that true evil lies with the humans who enforce fear upon others.

Apparently this was inspired by the movie Labyrinth, which I wasn't aware of. The 1986 film, which at this point I haven't seen, has quite a similar premise ("Sixteen-year-old Sarah must solve a labyrinth to rescue her baby brother when he is taken by the Goblin King.") and seemed to be the direct inspiration for the plot of this novel. I can't judge whether knowing that movie will enhance the reading experience of this, but it probably would have helped me with what to expect from this story, because I had no clue romance would play such a big role.

Parts of this did just read like YA romance. I don't think I'm spoiling too much by saying that the Lord of the Woods ended up being an attractive young man that Leah falls for. I was a bit disappointed when realising what direction this would develop, because for me personally, recognising the genre's familiar patterns relieved the story of a lot of tension and that eerie atmosphere that was created beforehand.

This is pleasantly written – just know what to expect from it. It's basically YA fantasy and romance with subtle elements of gothic horror and folklore. It's a delicious mix, but because it is ultimately targeted at young adults, it's not exploring its themes as drastically or intensively as they could have been examined. Don't get me wrong – this is an atmospheric and diverting novel that I finished within a couple of days, but I think there could have been more to it.

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