*I received the physical copy for the B2 Weird Bookclub tour via Henry Holt & Co. (BYR). All reviews are my own.*
One of these days, I'm going to find a horror story that's actually horrifying. Maybe it has to be a visual thing for me to get heart palpitations, but reading about it doesn't scare me. As we get close to spooky season, I decided to check out the latest Bookstagram hype from our skin-folk (Black if we haven't figured that out yet), entitled I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast is Me, by debut author Jamison Shea. I'm still figuring out how I feel about this story 100%, but I'm willing to talk about it since I just finished the audio. Let's dive in.
"Laure Mesny is a perfectionist with an axe to grind. Despite being constantly overlooked in the elite and cutthroat world of the Parisian ballet, she will do anything to prove that a Black girl can take center stage. To level the playing field, Laure ventures deep into the depths of the Catacombs and strikes a deal with a pulsating river of blood.
The primordial power Laure gains promises influence and adoration, everything she’s dreamed of and worked toward. With retribution on her mind, she surpasses her bitter and privileged peers, leaving broken bodies behind her on her climb to stardom.
But even as undeniable as she is, Laure is not the only monster around. And her vicious desires make her a perfect target for slaughter. As she descends into madness and the mystifying underworld beneath her, she is faced with the ultimate choice: continue to break herself for scraps of validation or succumb to the darkness that wants her exactly as she is—monstrous heart and all. That is, if the god-killer doesn’t catch her first."
I had a chance to listen to the audio version featuring the voice of Kristolyn Lloyd. Initially, I fucked with Lloyd's ability to grab everyone's attention and hold it center stage. I mean, the book's intro demanded that you pay attention or feel the wrath of the demonic presence that filled the speakers. But as we ventured further into the story, I found Lloyd's performance a little mundane and left to be desired. It's kind of like that villainous chick from the Uncharted movie. As bad as she was, she didn't give the role what it was supposed to receive. But at the same time, I think it had more to do with the slowness of the story than the actual narrator reading it.
I wholeheartedly believe the girlies over at Bookstagram were screaming for this book because:
The cover illustration of the book is to die for! We love seeing BIPOC (especially Black!) grace the gloss of the front cover. There has been an uptick in cover illustrations depicting us, but it's still a brand new feeling to see every time something like this drops in our hemisphere.
The title of the story is attention-grabbing. I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast is Me??? Who came up with that? That would make anyone want to read what's in store.
This is a debut book by a black author. Again, as previously stated with the cover illustrations, there's an uptick in BIPOC writers, and we especially love to see one of our own thrive in this space.
But when will we stop falling for the premise and not the actual plot? Honestly, I probably would have passed up on this book if it wasn't attached to a book tour. I had a feeling the hype wouldn't match the story. And I'm kind of right? I Feed Her to the Beast didn't really wow me. Basically, the novel questions if you would sell your soul to the devil to become the greatest. Ballet is a brutal world to be a part of. For your entire career, you have to be perfect at all times, body shamed, nimble as your body deteriorates, and of course, you have to watch out for the backstabbing bitches that try to sabotage you by putting thumbtacks and cut glass in your dancing shoes. All because you have the potential to be great. Now, endure all of this while being Black. That's the real horror.
I love that the author put the message in early that IFHTTBATBIM wasn't meant to be political in any way; it's just a fun story to delve into. So, it took off most of my expectancy when I started reading it. My biggest disappointment was the lack of horror in the book. It had the elements, but nothing was spooky enough to make me run out of the room when I turned off the lights behind me. I like that Shea uses horror elements to "justify" the more aggressive behavior against dancers whenever the main character gets angry. But for real, if it weren't for that, you would expect this kind of outcome anytime you hear stories about ballerinas, ice skaters, and gymnasts. I hoped for a different twist to the plot, something I wouldn't have guessed coming.
Overall, I rated this book 3-stars. I expected more. When you think of ballet, you imagine a Hunger Games version of Swan Lake. A girl sold her soul to the devil and became every bit of a Beast the world thought her as. Lessons were not learned, and the story could have gone deeper. The horror wasn't it, and the mystery level was equivalent to "I thought I left my keys on the table. Where could it be?" This slow-burn novel has an even slower ending that teases a possible continuation. I don't need that. But in the spirit of Issa Rae, I'm rooting for everyone Black.
I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me is available now!