STARRED REVIEW
August 2021

The River Has Teeth

By Erica Waters
Review by

Erica Waters’ second novel (after 2020’s Ghost Wood Song) is a richly atmospheric mystery that isn’t afraid to delve deep into the darkness of its premise.

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Della Lloyd’s family has drawn their magic from the Bend, a stretch of river and woodland known to locals as Wood Thrush Nature Park, for generations. Recently, however, something has gone terribly wrong with the woods and their magic that Della can’t explain. Almost a year ago, a spell left her mother cursed to be transformed into a monstrous river siren each night, and now a string of girls has disappeared in the park. 

Among them is Rochelle Greymont, whose sister, Natasha, will stop at nothing to find her. While Natasha suspects Rochelle’s abusive boyfriend, Jake, of foul play, Della secretly worries her bloodthirsty mother might be the real culprit. Natasha’s anger and desperation lead her to beg Della for magical assistance in tracking down Rochelle, but neither girl is prepared for the terrible secrets their search will unearth. 

Erica Waters’ second novel (after 2020’s Ghost Wood Song) is a richly atmospheric mystery that isn’t afraid to delve deep into the darkness of its premise, and the Bend provides a perfect backdrop for its story. It’s a foreboding place, steeped in a long history of violence and filled with creatures that are not what they seem to be. Even Della, who loves the Bend and feels connected to the rich plant life it harbors, can’t ignore the threat its increasingly twisted magic poses. 

While both Della and Natasha are driven by the need to protect the people they love, Waters never shies away from the harsher sides of her heroines. “I’d kill a hundred park visitors myself before I’d let my momma die,” Della admits early on, while Natasha wants Jake to suffer for how he treated her sister as much as she wants him to confess. Waters gives Della’s and Natasha’s feelings of rage, grief and fear plenty of space to seethe without judgment. The result is a cathartic portrait of two girls’ anger toward a world whose cruelty and injustice forced them to fight back. 

Full of dangers both magical and mundane, The River Has Teeth delivers ferociously good thrills.

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The River Has Teeth

The River Has Teeth

By Erica Waters
HarperTeen
ISBN 9780062894250

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