One of Goodreads Most Popular Horror of 2022
"Brutal and shocking, lush and evocative. DeMeester is a highly-original voice in horror." - emily m. danforth, bestselling author of Plain Bad Heroines
A biting novel from an electrifying new voice, Kristi DeMeester's Such a Pretty Smile is a heart-stopping tour-de-force about powerful women, angry men, and all the ways in which girls fight against the forces that try to silence them.
There’s something out there that’s killing. Known only as The Cur, he leaves no traces, save for the torn bodies of girls, on the verge of becoming women, who are known as trouble-makers; those who refuse to conform, to know their place. Girls who don’t know when to shut up.
2019: Thirteen-year-old Lila Sawyer has secrets she can’t share with anyone. Not the school psychologist she’s seeing. Not her father, who has a new wife, and a new baby. And not her mother—the infamous Caroline Sawyer, a unique artist whose eerie sculptures, made from bent twigs and crimped leaves, have made her a local celebrity. But soon Lila feels haunted from within, terrorized by a delicious evil that shows her how to find her voice—until she is punished for using it.
2004: Caroline Sawyer hears dogs everywhere. Snarling, barking, teeth snapping that no one else seems to notice. At first, she blames the phantom sounds on her insomnia and her acute stress in caring for her ailing father. But then the delusions begin to take shape—both in her waking hours, and in the violent, visceral sculptures she creates while in a trance-like state. Her fiancé is convinced she needs help. Her new psychiatrist waives her “problem” away with pills. But Caroline’s past is a dark cellar, filled with repressed memories and a lurking horror that the men around her can’t understand.
As past demons become a present threat, both Caroline and Lila must chase the source of this unrelenting, oppressive power to its malignant core. Brilliantly paced, unsettling to the bone, and unapologetically fierce, Such a Pretty Smile is a powerful allegory for what it can mean to be a woman, and an untamed rallying cry for anyone ever told to sit down, shut up, and smile pretty.
“A righteously angry fever dream.” - Paul Tremblay
"Darkly visceral." - Publishers Weekly
"Compulsive and horrifyingly entertaining." - Liz Nugent
“Darkly feminist.” - Karma Brown
“Razor-sharp. This one will cut you.” - Christopher Golden
"DeMeester’s storytelling is ferociously and unashamedly feminine...very satisfying." - Sadie Hartmann "Mother Horror," Mystery & Suspense Magazine
Demeester (Beneath) blends realistic descriptions of dissociation and schizophrenia with the horror of a serial killer preying on young girls in this chilling probe into gender-based violence. In 2019, high schooler Lila Sawyer struggles with her attraction to her only friend; her increasingly strained relationship with her mother, Caroline; and the frightening news of young girls who were discovered dead and mutilated in the nearby woods. Demeester's immersive descriptions suck readers into Lila's inner turmoil as she starts seeing and hearing dogs that aren't there and feels a dark presence awakening inside of her. Afraid that she's inherited Caroline's paranoid schizophrenia, Lila keeps these episodes secret while working to uncover what Caroline is hiding about a serial killer, known as The Cur, from years ago. Well-structured timeline shifts to 2004 depict Caroline's sanity unravelling as she cares for her terminally ill father and manages her fianc 's mounting envy of her artistic talent, while, in the present, Lila becomes enamored with the sense of power she feels when the darkness within speaks through her. Demeester's darkly visceral imagery draws a fine line between mental illness and supernatural events that will leave readers doubting reality as the uncanny merges with the real-world horrors of a young girl coming of age.)