Release Date: August 26th 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.
It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.
But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.
But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….
Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.
This book was weird. There’s really no two ways about that. But it was weird in the best of ways. I found myself digging in, unable to take my eyes off the screen until I knew how it was all going to turn out.
The book starts off with Serena Sims being dragged out of her school. Oh yeah, and she’s dead. She is dead, but her spirit is still trapped inside her body and she can still feel everything that is happening to her. It’s an odd, unprecedented take on the first person ghost point of view. However, it immediately grabbed my attention and sent me reeling, because suddenly I was feeling phantom pains in my stomach every time she did. It set the stage for what was going to be a hard hitting and gritty read. And even though she was the only character revealed in this scene, I was already wondering ‘who dun it?’
The next scene is a flashback to a major event in our protagonist’s life. Living in Chicago with her professor father, Claire was an award-winning journalist and mostly happy teenager. After taking a shortcut home, Claire was brutally assaulted to the point of death, and her life was irrevocably changed forever. Somehow, Claire survived the attack, but she didn’t come out the same person. And so, her father and Claire pack up for Peculiar, Missouri for a semester sabbatical.
It is at this moment that both stories converge and Claire realizes that the town of Peculiar is in fact, quite Peculiar. As she learns about the disappearance of a young girl her age, she begins realizing how the elements around her match her own attack too much. And rather than dealing with it, she pushes it aside.
Claire was a really great protagonist to have, because she wanted to be a reliable narrator, but she wasn’t always. And that lack of control drove her crazy and made the situation even worse. As she began experiencing hallucinations, we the audience were suddenly left wondering if this was a supernatural event or the mind of Claire. As a journalist, Claire hated that. And I loved it.
Schindler created a rather dark world, in my mind I saw the town in the same dark and dreary colors as the cover. And even the characters of Peculiar were odd. There were moments I questioned the intentions of some of the town’s citizens, but overall I began to see how those actions added to the overwhelming pulse of the story. Everything in Claire’s life was off kilter. Everything in this town was off.
This book has a lot of gruesome moments, a lot of panicky moments where your heart gets to racing. Did I figure things out? Mostly. Did it matter? No, because the figuring it out was more important to Claire than to you as a reader — you begun focusing on other things besides just who killed Serena. There will bigger pieces of the puzzle to put together.
I loved the fact that Rich was a friend — a great friend — but that the focus was never he and Claire. Claire had a lot to deal with outside of boys, so keeping that on the back burner really allowed the story to unfold.
The beginning of the book, just like the end, was beautiful and really captivating. I loved how Schindler can paint a scene with words.
The one other thing I will say about this book is it made me a little afraid of my cat. I found myself hurrying to the store to buy extra food for him so he wouldn’t try to eat my face off in the middle of the night. The way Schindler weaves the story of these feral cats into Claire’s and Serena’s story was great. In the end, I wasn’t sure if the feral cats’ actions were delusions of Claire’s mind or really quite sinister.
Honestly, I can say this is a book people are either going to love or hate. If you love small town, realistic fiction that comes with a dash of supernatural, this book is definitely for you. If books like The Lovely Bones, My Last Kiss, and Imaginary Girls weren’t your cup of tea, you probably won’t like Feral. I wouldn’t recommend it to every person, but for those it is right for, it is really right.
“Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler’s third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A Blue So Dark…This time, the focus is on women’s voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking…This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees.” – Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“From the opening pages readers will be immediately immersed in this dark story…[which] has echoes of classic Hitchcock. Issues of cliques, peer pressure, bullying, self-esteem, post-traumatic stress syndrome, teacher-student relationships, and pet abandonment will provide substance for discussion.” – School Library Journal
Scrambling to free herself, Claire turned to see exactly how badly her feet were tangled in the fallen limb. But the shattered branch that had just tripped her was a strange shade of blue—purple—gray.
She was staring at a human hand.
“No—no,” Claire screamed as she attempted to get away from the limb and the dead body, tripping on the hem of her coat in the process. She stumbled back to the earth, falling on her backpack.
An angry hiss pried Claire’s eyes upward, away from the waxy, blue fingers.
A cat edged forward from its perch on top of the limb that pinned the body; a pair of yellow eyes with black stripes narrowed at Claire; pink fangs flashed. Nearby, another yellow set of eyes popped from the shadows as a tail curled up onto a black curved back. More fangs. More eyes. More angry, fat tails.
Holly Schindler is the author of the critically acclaimed A BLUE SO DARK (Booklist starred review, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year silver medal recipient, IPPY Awards gold medal recipient) as well as PLAYING HURT (both YAs).
Her debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY also released in ’14, and became a favorite of teachers and librarians, who used the book as a read-aloud. Kirkus Reviews called THE JUNCTION “…a heartwarming and uplifting story…[that] shines…with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.” Bloggers also quickly fell for the book; Susan at Bloggin’ ‘bout Books said of THE JUNCTION, “Triumphant and compelling, this is one of those books that will make you cheer. And look a little bit closer for the unique beauty in all of us.”
FERAL is Schindler’s third YA and first mystery / thriller. She encourages readers to get in touch, and can be found at hollyschindler.com, hollyschindler.blogspot.com, @holly_schindler, Facebook.com/HollySchindlerAuthor, and http://hollyschindler.tumblr.com/