A short story I recently read

‘Girls Have Sharp Teeth’ by Genevieve Mills

Read it here in about 20 minutes.

Thinking about narrative voice…

It’s swiftly evident that our narrator is a teenage girl, and she has a great narrative voice.

The vocabulary and semantic fields support the fact this is a teenage voice: the first line mentions a female collective at Clark High school; the villain is a sports star, indicated by his ‘lacrosse stick’; we have words like ‘lamer’ and the expression ‘she was kind of sucking’, and the language of high school maths in ‘X equaled 3’.

In the second paragraph we learn that the first paragraph, with its first-person plural vengeful monsters who rip the villain apart, was just a fantasy. The fact it is a fantasy, and the nature of the fantasy, tells us something about our narrator – she longs to be part of a collective sisterhood that supports and defends its own, and she longs for justice. This suggests there is much unseen beneath our narrator’s surface, an idea that develops throughout the story (the ‘Daddy Issues’).

We have school-appropriate gossip, cliques, the taking of sides, the blaming of victims, the slut shaming: ‘some girls said there’s no way that happened … he was such a nice guy’; ‘Some girls wondered if you could even throw an iPhone hard enough to knock out teeth’; ‘Madison S. shouldn’t have been dating an older guy, anyway … it was rumored they had slept together. She had slept with her last boyfriend, too.’

We see the narrator’s personality coming through in her behaviour and demeanour, the way she justifies her opinions and choices, and what she tells and omits: ‘My glares are pretty intimidating,’; ‘I personally didn’t believe in after-school activities.’; ‘I’m an unreliable narrator. … I thought you should know about my trust issues, and also a lot of this story was overheard or pieced together from rumors and subtweets’.

The violence the female characters are routinely subjected to by males is reported with a straightforward innocence: Samantha A. and Sarah B. being followed by three men in the mall; transgender Olivia ‘getting beat up by three senior boys on her way home from school, again.’; Jessica P.’s teacher ‘who had been fired and no one knew why.’

The form of protection – getting fangs – is a simple yet effective method, and we see how the girls’ reaction to this trend changes over time: initially ‘they were … a flashing sign that read “damaged.” … If I got fangs people would wonder why’, but by the time cool and dangerous Jessica P. gets her fangs, a reason is no longer required: ‘When people asked her why she got them she shrugged and tossed her long silky hair.’

If only it were as simple as getting our teeth capped.

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