by V.E. Schwab – Exclusive piece

On the surface, This Savage Song is a book about monsters.

The kind that lurk at the heart of every good campfire tale. The kind with teeth and claws. Under that, it’s a book about humanity. Both what it means to be human in a monstrous world, and what kind of monsters come wrapped in human shells. What it means to be monstrous.

But at its core, This Savage Song is about what it means to be in the wrong skin. To want to change yourself in ways you can, and ways you can’t, and how to come to terms with the difference.

Kate Harker is a human girl who wants to become monstrous, because she thinks it’s the only way to get her father’s attention, the only way to survive in this new violent world. And for the most part, she can become monstrous. She is not naturally terrible, as much as she wishes she were, but it’s in her power to become that way. She can strip herself of her feelings, or burn them away; she can destroy the parts of herself that make her human.

August Flynn, on the other hand, is a monster who would give anything to be human. A soul-eater, he is literally starving himself in some vain hope that what’s left will not be a monster but a boy. But the reality is that by trying to carve out his monstrous self, he only makes it worse. Every time he pushes his body too far, a darker, horrible version takes control. A version that is well and truly monstrous.

Kate and August both think they are trapped in the wrong skin, and in that sense, this is a book about identity, about trying to change yourself at a fundamental level. About discovering how much you’ll have to sacrifice to be someone else, something else, and when no sacrifice is enough, it’s about learning to accept who you are, what you are, why you are.

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