Following the death of her mother at the hands of the military government, an 18-year-old Argentinian girl escapes to desolate Patagonia, finding refuge in a finishing school besieged by hostile spirits.
The year is 1978. Mavi ends up teaching at the infamous Vaccaro School, led by the enigmatic Carmela De Vaccaro. Marred by a curse that wiped out its inhabitants 60 years before, and surrounded by an icy hellscape, the school sits atop land seized from the fictional Zapuche people. As she grows closer to her nine students (the 10th girl is missing), Mavi, whose father had Zapuche roots, uncovers more about the school’s grisly origins, its eccentric occupants, and the ghastly Otros (Others) who feed on the inhabitants as they sleep. She soon befriends Carmela’s son, Domenico, a cruel, handsome boy who seems to change overnight thanks in part to Angel, a benevolent Other who’s curious about Mavi—and the mysterious 10th girl. The story delivers numerous twists and turns, each a deliriously unreal blow. Though the narrative drags at times and some quieter moments feel needlessly long, debut author Faring spins a deceptively simple haunted tale via the alternating viewpoints of Mavi and Angel. Anachronistic hints gesture toward what’s really happening at Vaccaro School, culminating in an unanticipated final twist that’s sure to be divisive. While the author draws attention to the oppression of Indigenous peoples, the treatment of this subject is cursory.
An inspired, cluttered, wholly original tale. (Gothic horror. 14-19)