Sunday, October 5, 2014

Feral by Holly Schindler

Claire Cain was a rising star in the student journalism world, winning a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for her work.  When her friend was accused of possessing drugs with the intent to distribute it is Claire's work that clears her name - an ultimately leads to Claire becoming the target of a shocking revenge attack that leaves her bloodied and broken.  Months later she leaves behind the memories of the gruesome and violent attack and heads to small town Peculiar, Missouri with her father.  It is a chance for both of them to get some space from the memories, a chance for her father to enjoy his sabbatical, and a chance for Claire to try and shake off the memories of the blood and the fear and the pain. 

Easier said than done however, because within in a matter of days she stumbles across the dead body of Serena Sims.  There are a lot of parallels for Claire and Serena - both were attacked, both stopped looking human because of their attack, and while Claire may have survived her ordeal it left her with physical and emotional scars.  It is this shard history that links their two lives together - two teenage girls with a passion for journalism, who are willing to step up and tell the truth to whoever is willing to listen.  Claire soon discovers that there are deeper connections too, connections that only grow stronger the more Claire learns about Serena and her new town.  With Serena haunting her ever step, Claire is in a race against time to solve the mystery of Serena's death.  But even in a small town there can be big secrets, secrets people are willing to kill to keep.

Feral was one of those books that was almost immediately off putting because it starts so strangely, but once I got over that it quickly became a riveting read that kept me hooked until the end.  It is more than a little disconcerting to enter a story through the eyes of a murder victim, especially after they are already dead.  Through Serena's eyes we are thrown into a story of murder and despair, one where she experiences her body being moved and dumped in the woods, and where she experiences the unwanted attentions of the local feral cat population.  From Serena's story we jump straight into Claire's memories of the night she was stalked by a group of men who attack her and almost kill her in a frenzied attack that leaves her broken and scarred.  We then pick up the scene months after Claire's attack, which seems to bend time a little because Serena goes missing just before Claire arrives in her home town.

This was a book that seemed to defy genre - just when I thought I had it pegged as belonging in one genre, the author shook things up and it seemed to be a completely different genre.  Claire is an extremely "potent" character to experience events through because as we come to discover everything is not quite as it seems.  It is difficult in this day and age to find a book that truly has a unique voice, because it seems as though most authors are looking for a theme to latch on to, or the hot topic genre to latch on to - but that is not what Schindler has created with Feral.  I truly enjoyed Feral, mostly because it is what I would call an intelligent read, one that makes you work for the story and leaves little clues and breadcrumbs for you to follow rather than belting you across the head with the story.  

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Reviewed by Brilla

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