Review: Feral by Holly Schindler

by Holly Schindler
Series: Standalone
Released on: August 26th, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 2.5 stars
Word Rating: cat mafia alert
Reviewed by: Blythe

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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.

To give credit where credit is due, Feral is truly unlike anything I've read before. Schlinder takes originality to new heights in here, and that's something to be noted, as mediocre and at times ridiculous this was for me. In some ways, Feral is the creepy YA novel I've been waiting a while for; Schindler doesn't hold back on the gore and gruesome descriptions, and as a whole her writing style fits really well for a story like this. The atmosphere of Peculiar, Missouri is well done, despite the fact that it borrows quite a few tiresome horror movie tropes, like the mysterious old hick who warns the main character of the town's dangers. (To whom, of course, our main character Claire does not listen.) It's basically: "Don't fuck with the cats." "OOH, KITTY!" All of the creepy stuff in this was pretty spot on, and I truly enjoyed those portions, but my disappointment in this book boils down to two words: cat mafia. 

Reading the synopsis, I knew that Feral involved cats in one way or another, and also in one way or another, said cats are evil. A little part of me had hoped for something to do with werewolves, but alas, that is not the case in here.  Initially, I found the cats and their roles in the novel to be chilling; the novel starts with a murder, from the perspective of the victim, and before the prologue ends she sees glowing yellow eyes approaching her. At this point, I was really excited to have a realistic contemporary thriller, with people versus hungry and demented cats, but with each new twist introduced that related in some way to the cats, I grew less interested and more annoyed. There's a leader of the gang, its name is Sweet Pea who is a total bitch, as the leader of a cat mafia would be; she and the gang organizes and corners the main character at a school dance; they all threaten her to large extents, because apparently cats are impossible to walk around, and that's not even touching the surface. I won't spoil anything big here, but the entire plot with the cats just becomes absolutely ridiculous, and then even more ridiculous, and then even more so. Schindler started this all off with what I felt was a really novel and creepy concept, and weirdly relatable too; we all know of a place with a few stray cats--I live in a neighborhood with some--and it added a chilling layer to the story that those strays could be feral and sinister. Then the realism decreased, and decreased even further, to the point where it was laughable.

Another plot stuffed into the novel, along with the many plots of the cat mafia, is the murder mystery regarding who killed the girl in the prologue. Who also has her own big plot. I penned down the killer and most of his or her motives down fairly early in the novel, and the motives I hadn't penned down were pretty ridiculous, to be honest. Regardless, this part of the novel was fairly well done in its red herrings and haziness, and although I saw the outcome far ahead of its reveal, how the characters got there was interesting. However, this plot brings another flaw of the novel for me: the novel is just too boring. The exposition is slow, and the plot is only hinted at about 100 pages in, and is only really taken into play about 200 pages in--halfway through the novel. That's 200 pages of exposition, and although some of those pages were dedicated to relationship development which I enjoyed, that's just too much in the end. Once the plot really got going, my interest in the novel had waned, and although some of the twists were interesting, I wasn't as engaged as I might have been had the exposition been slimmed down by 100 pages. 

The relationship development is nice, though, in some ways. Most of the relationships are somewhat flimsy, but they're drawn well, especially considering many of them had been established before the main character moved to town. I liked how the girl Claire had initially judged as cocky and "the kind of beautiful that could inspire both lust and jealousy that bordered on hatred" ended up becoming one of her friends. Another relationship I appreciated was Claire's friendship with Rich, which could theoretically evolve into a romance (as there is none in here). The relationship itself was somewhat bland, but aside from that I have nothing negative to say about it. It's there. 

In the end, the problem with Feral is that it gets off to much too slow of a start, and when things actually start to happen, the end result is too obvious and the happenings themselves too weird. Not to mention the ultimate resolution (I say ultimate because with so many plots, there are many) is both inaccurate and uninspired. I like the writing, the creepy moments (perhaps the creepiest thing being the amount of turtlenecks), and some of the relationships in here, but the aspects of the plot were far too weird and convoluted for me. I appreciate Schindler's originality and have no doubt other readers will as well, but as a whole, Feral manages to have too much going on at the same time and also too little. 

*snaps fingers menacingly*


  1. The concept of Feral sounds creepy and intriguing; however, it sounds like the mystery and thriller aspects aren't well done. I think I'll be passing this one over. Great review, Blythe!


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