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BookTok worth it or not: ‘Mexican Gothic’

Dear readers, welcome back for another edition of BookTok worth it or not! New year, new books and we’ve got some great books lined up to be reviewed. Over winter break I made it my goal to get to 50 books for the year after leaving off last semester at 46 so we’ve got some books to catch up on. 

 

Here’s the gist: I read books that blow up on BookTok and then I come here to decide whether or not they deserve the hype they’ve received. Without any more delay this week’s review goes to “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. 

 

“Mexican Gothic” has been getting a lot of attention on BookTok with honestly a lot of mixed reviews. There are certain books on BookTok that are untouchable—you cannot say a bad word otherwise the masses will come with pitchforks. (Cough cough “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” by V. E. Schwab or literally any Colleen Hoover book) With “Mexican Gothic” the reviews are about 50-50 with people either loving it or hating it. I think this is a risk that comes with sharing book recommendations on social media platforms. People get their hopes up for books and if they fall short—or don’t entirely agree with the opinion of the person who recommended it—then they deem the book to be “bad.” Book recommendations are highly unique to the individual, that’s why I usually leave a little caveat emptor that my taste in books is very niche to me, so my recommendations are not for all. But I’m here to defend “Mexican Gothic” from its harsher critics because it deserves to be read. 

 

Moreno-Garcia’s work is smart and gripping. “Mexican Gothic” is a psychological thriller that will have you hooked to solve this dark mystery. Moreno-Garcia sets the scene in 1950s Mexico, and we follow the story with Noemí Taboada, a socialite sent to go check-in on her cousin, Catalina, after the family receives a concerning letter from her. 

 

Catalina had married quickly—very taboo—to Virgil Doyle. Virgil then sweeps Catalina away to his family estate which he stands to inherit, High Place. This is important and we’re gonna talk about that symbolism later. But as soon as they’re married, Catalina cuts off nearly all contact with her family—until the letter arrives. The letter calls in question Catalina’s sanity as she writes of ghosts and curses in High Place. Noemí’s father then tasks her with going to visit her cousin to assess her wellbeing. 

 

Noemí arrives at High Place and instantly Moreno-Garcia builds this fantastically horrifying place. You get pulled into High Place, a Victorian-style mansion that sits above El Triunfo, a former mining town outside of Mexico City. High Place—and El Triunfo—were once booming and impressive sites that have since begun to decay after the closing of the mines. The Doyle family’s wealth came from the silver produced by the mines; without that income the family has lost its reputation and the shine on High Place has faded. 

 

In her trip to High Place, Noemí not only works to solve her cousin’s illness—which the Doyles claim to be tuberculosis—she also works to unwind the family secrets of the Doyles and High Place itself. Mary Shelley—the queen of thrillers—would be proud of this work and the world Moreno-Garcia creates. She weaves themes of racial class, gender inequality and labor inequity into the novel and she shows how this impacts generations of people. Not only does Moreno-Garcia construct these fantastical evils but she also portrays real-world evils. She weaves fiction and reality together to show us the true power of monsters in society and how they place themselves higher than others. 

 

Moreno-Garcia keeps you on the edge of your seat till the very end of the book. Even when you think you’ve reached the end and all is resolved there is another twist waiting for you, and then another. It truly was really an enjoyable read while still discussing heavier themes. 

 

Noemí is a stunning main character; she has her flaws but is still likable to the reader. She is fierce and stubborn as she digs to find the truth behind the mystery of the Doyles. She is extremely loyal to her cousin and stays by her side even when it is a risk to her own well being. Noemí also fights to break old-world expectations for women and reclaim power for herself. I also always love a story that shows the bonds between women. I think it’s a really beautiful connection that can be hard to capture with words but Moreno-Garcia does it beautifully. And I love how she makes these connections both with the living and the dead and she bends the traditional concepts of time. Also a huge shoutout to Francis. He’s a bean of a character trapped in a life he didn’t want. Ten-out-of-10 character right there. Howard Doyle negative-108290-out-of-10 character. He’s the worst and this is somehow still an understatement. 

 

Honestly, this would be a great book for spooky season, or for a rainy day. Thrillers aren’t my go-to genre, though I have been getting more into them recently. I think “Mexican Gothic” is a great starter book if you want to get into the thriller genre and was definitely easier to digest than some other thrillers like “Ninth House” by Leigh Bardugo. While I liked “Ninth House” a whole lot it is a chunky book to read with a hard-to-digest plot at times if you aren’t used to thrillers. It is also important to note that I would consider “Mexican Gothic” closer to a traditional Gothic or thriller book than I would “Ninth House.” So if you’re looking to get into thrillers, I would 100% recommend this book. If you want a spooky read, again this is a book for you. 

 

Just wait until next week, we are really shifting gears and reviewing “These Violent Delights” and “Our Violent Ends” by Chloe Gong. I’m excited, I have thoughts.

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