Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review: Feral

FeralAuthor: Holly Schindler
Series: Standalone
Released: August 26th 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 432 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

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.

If there’s one thing that can be pointed out in favor of Holly Schindler’s first YA novel, it’s the breathtaking originality of her story. Feral is unlike anything I’ve ever read: bold, gruesome and above all, beautifully written. In that, Schindler can easily be compared to Kendare Blake or Barry Lyga: authors who don’t shy away from gory details, but embrace them as a necessity for their narrative. Schindler’s writing is gorgeously lyrical, perfect for creating a deep, chilling atmosphere. It brings forth images of ice storms and fogs, dead bodies and feral cats, and her skilled sentences are more than enough to send a chilling sensation down our spines.

Schilling took her time in building this story, choosing to focus on the details, and it must be said that her pacing suffered for it. The first half of Feral is very slow, which is fine to a point, but then it becomes a bit tedious and confusing. Then, when things finally start picking up, she tries to do too much at once, which causes further damage to the main storyline. Instead of focusing on one thing – the murder of Serena Sims – Schindler tried to squeeze in two additional subplots, and completely ruined the flow of her narrative.

The (feral) cats play a pretty big part in this book, but I can’t say I understand their role. I liked it when they first started showing up because I had no idea where Schindler was going with them and I expected it to be something brilliant. And yet, now that I’ve finished the story, I’m still not sure what she was trying to achieve, and I think the story could have functioned much better without them.

I do however applaud Schindler for managing to avoid romance completely. Her main character, Claire, is too damaged from the brutal attack she suffered to even think about trusting someone enough to start a relationship, and I’m glad she wasn’t magically cured by some pretty boy with soulful eyes. But romance aside, the non-romantic relationships she managed to build needed more work, as did her characterization, especially when it comes to her secondary characters.

Overall, Feral is worthy of attention mostly because it brings something new to the YA genre, but Schindler’s work needs more focus, more careful characterization and a better sense of pace. There is great potential in her writing, and if she spends some time working on those few weak points, we can expect marvelous things from her in the future.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.


  1. I have been curious about this one and despite the flaws you pointed in the book, I'm quite intrigued about the whole no romance of it, it is quite hard to find books without any romance!
    Thanks for your honest review, Maja!

  2. I was curious about this one but the reviews weren't awesome so I passed. I confess that it's nice to have a original story because it's not often the case but it's too bad about the the points like the cats. It's upsetting...

  3. Well, as it's obvious, everyone likes unique story lines. So I am interested with this. but still, slow moving books just annoy me to no end. I can't function with them.
    GREAT review, Maja!
    As always
    Your reader,

  4. This was quite the read wasn't it? So frustrating and gruesome at times but like you said, also done so well other times.

    Great review Maja!

  5. While this sounds unique in a lot of ways, I'm not sure I want to read it for 2 reasons. Firstly, the cats. For some weird reason, cats creep me out in real life. So reading about them in fiction is probably going to terrify me further. As much as you appreciated the lack of romance, I think I would have liked some. I like my books with romance typically.
    Still, I'm glad you liked it overall, Maja.
    Lovely review!

  6. When I saw the comparison to Barry Lyga and Kendare Blake, I thought one would be highly recommended. But all the flaws you mentioned means I'll most likely pass on this one even though it has no romance and is quite original. Great review though!

  7. As much as I adore beautiful writing, I think this novel being slow and the lack of romance (shallow reader, yes) would deter me from reading this book.

    Great review, Maja. :)

  8. When I first saw this book about I thought it wouldn't be my sort of read, so I'm sort of glad that I didn't end up giving it a go. Despite how amazing and unique the plot sounds I think the pacing would really annoy me. Great review though Maja! :)

  9. Hmmm...I really do enjoy books by Blake and Lyga, but I'm not sure about this one. I thought it would fast paced and the inclusion of the feral cats has been confused. I don't think this one is for me. Thanks for the honest review as always!

  10. Yes! That's what we love, when the author doesn't sugarcoat the scary parts. I haven't seen that in a while but that combined with the great writing seems so appealing to me. I don't like the sound of pacing so that will bother me for sure, but still it seems like a story worth reading. Great review, Maja :)

  11. Yay for bringing something new and ability to avoid romance is iffy for me though

  12. I'm kind of sad about the lack of forward motion with the feral cats. I was hoping with some amazing...something going on with the cats. I do love Shindler's writing though I'm not always blown away by the story itself.

  13. Nice review. I really appreciate you focusing on all qualities of the book, instead of just bashing it for one thing or whatnot. :) Very well done.

  14. One quick note- this is her third YA, I read her other two (contemporary) and they were excellent.

    This book is definitely different. I liked that I wasn't always sure what was happening. And I liked that she took things outside the box. I'm glad you mostly enjoyed!

  15. The beautiful writing and scenes that give you chills are enough to make me read the book. I can deal with slow pacing and I like that there is no romance. I will give it a chance. Great review :)


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