Today I’m thrilled to welcome author Erica Waters to Pop! Goes The Reader as we share the exclusive cover reveal for Erica’s sophomore young adult novel, The River Has Teeth! Coming to a library and bookstore near you July 20, 2021 by HarperTeen, The River Has Teeth is a contemporary fantasy with a predominantly queer cast of characters, a F/F romance and has been described as “dark, emotionally propulsive, and filled with magic, monsters, and murder.” The story sounds every bit as breathtaking as the beautiful cover below, and The River Has Teeth is already one of my most-anticipated books of 2021!
Please read on to learn more about The River Has Teeth, including the novel’s complete synopsis and an exclusive excerpt and cover reveal, as well as an opportunity for one lucky reader to win an advance reader copy of the novel!
About Erica Waters
Erica Waters is the author of the young adult novels Ghost Wood Song and The River Has Teeth. She grew up in the pine woods of rural Florida, though she now resides in Nashville, Tennessee. She has a Master’s degree in English and works as a university writing tutor. When she’s not writing books, you can find her hanging out with her two scruffy little dogs, Nutmeg and Luna.
Author photo by Amelia J. Moore
Cover design by Jenna Stempel-Lobell, Cover art by Chervelle Fryer
Title The River Has Teeth
Author Erica Waters
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Publication Date July 20, 2021 by HarperTeen
Genre Contemporary Fantasy
Find It On Goodreads
Natasha’s sister is missing.
Her car was found abandoned on the edge of a local nature preserve known as the Bend, but as the case goes cold, Natasha’s loss turns to burning anger.
She’ll do anything to find answers.
Della’s family has channeled magic from the Bend for generations, providing spells for the desperate. But when Natasha appears on her doorstep, Della knows it will take more than simple potions to help her.
But Della has her own secrets to hide.
Because Della thinks she knows the beast who’s responsible for the disappearance — her own mother, who was turned into a terrible monster by magic gone wrong.
Natasha is angry. Della has little to lose.
They are each other’s only hope.
As an extra, exciting bonus, Erica has been kind enough to offer one lucky reader the opportunity to win an advance reader copy of The River Has Teeth! This contest is open to residents of the U.S. and will run from October 7th – October 21st. At the conclusion of the giveaway one winner will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter and the prize will be distributed when ARCs become available.
Content Warning: This excerpt contains violent content.
The prison is always quiet but never still. A train’s low rumble vibrates the cement walls, releasing ancient dust in ghostly breaths. Water drips. Mice scurry in the ruins. Starlings flutter in the rafters, all rattle and rasp. Wind moans through the narrow, broken windows.
Everyone in town thinks this old prison is haunted. They don’t know how right they are.
“I’m here,” I call. My voice echoes in the predawn darkness, making the starlings stop their chatter. I shine my flashlight over the path, watching for rubble that could trip me. If I fall, she might decide I’m prey. If I fall —
“Are you awake?” I ask, pushing away the fear before it can get its roots into me. I pause, listening for her slightest movement, a single breath. There’s nothing.
The short, fine hairs at the back of my neck prickle, and I spin, ready to block a slap, a lunge, a bite. But her silhouette in the darkness is still. She’s back in her human form now, only a slight, pale woman with long, dark hair and a smell like the river at flood time. I wait for her to move, wait for her to show today’s mood. Will she be quiet and sly, or raging?
She steps into a shaft of weak light. Her hair is matted with dirt and something dark and wet. Her eyes are as shadowed as the forgotten corners of this derelict prison. A smear of dried blood turns her thin lips into a clown’s crooked smile. She comes closer and reaches a bony hand toward my face.
Everything inside me wants to startle and back away, wants to bolt. But you can’t show her any weakness, so I brace myself for her touch. Her hand is moist and cold and smells of earth. She caresses my cheek, her gaze almost gentle.
Some old blood instinct, some half-forgotten longing, rises in me. “Momma,” I say, leaning into her touch. She smiles at the endearment.
And then her hand snarls in my hair and I’m flying across the room. I catch my balance just in time to keep from toppling into a brick wall. My fingers splay over the peeling white paint, knocking long flakes of it from the wall in my hurry to spin back around. A brick barely misses my face as I turn.
“Are you done now?” I ask after a beat, keeping my voice steady, almost indifferent. That’s the way to handle my mother when she’s in a mood like this. She’s human now, but only just. By noon, she’ll be more like her old self. But I’ll be stocking shelves at the grocery store by then.
Momma shrugs, but I can tell she’s already lost interest. She wanders across the open room and pauses beneath the squawking starlings, gazing up at them. That must be where the blood came from — a bird she caught in the night. At least I hope it was a bird. I guess it could also be a rat or possum.
“I brought you some breakfast,” I say, crossing the room with my pack. Momma settles onto a clear place on the floor and I sit across from her, pulling out a thermos of decaf coffee and a fried-egg-and-cheese sandwich, which she regards with deep skepticism.
She turns her eyes back to the starlings and begins to hum. Her voice, even while humming, is eerily beautiful, especially here, echoing in the stillness of the prison. The starlings stop their chattering to listen. Maybe this is how she caught one last night.
“What’s that you’re humming?” I ask, hoping to draw her back to human thoughts.
She looks at me and smiles, the blood on her lips turning it into a chilling expression. She sings, picking up where she left off.
From ear to ear I slit her mouth,
And stabbed her in the head,
Till she, poor soul, did breathless lie,
Before her butcher bled.
I go as still as the birds, my eyes fixed on hers. Her expression turns troubled as she sings the next verse, but her voice seems to caress the words.
And then I took her by the hair,
To cover the foul sin
And dragged her to the riverside,
And threw her body in.
“That’s enough, Momma,” I say. “Stop it.” I shake myself, as if the movement can release me from her song and the memories it evokes: gray skin and sharp teeth, a curtain of hair like seaweed. The wildness in her green eyes as she pushed the body into the river.