Claire Cain only just survived a brutal gang beating in a car park in Chicago, and when her father gets a job in small town Peculiar, so they pack up and move, hoping to give Claire a fresh start. Arriving at the same time as an ice storm, a local school girl goes missing and Claire later discovers her body in the mysterious woods surrounded by the town’s large feral cat colony. The town dismisses the death as an accident, but Claire’s journalistic integrity won’t let her rest until she really solves the mystery of a girl dying in the woods she was terrified of, uncovering scandals and conspiracies in her wake.
I fell in love with Feral from the very first page. It depicts violence unflinchingly, honestly, and graphically, and I couldn’t help but find it very beautiful. I really admire Schindler’s storytelling ability. I felt very early on that my heart might get broken whilst reading this book and from the very start I trusted Schindler to flay my soul and relished in all the emotions I experienced during Claire’s horrific backstory. I gladly offered my heart to be broken and I wasn’t disappointed.
Initially I felt the first third of the novel was very strong, and then when weird things started happening, I did get a little confused because I thought the book was meant to be a contemporary thriller. Then I thought I’d approach it as more of like a magical realism, like Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, and I started being able to accept the weird. I really like novels like this, ones really truly based in reality but with something a little strange going on, some kind of supernatural twist without the book changing genres. I think Schindler pulled it all off really well, especially at the climax and denouement when everything was explained and it all made perfect sense.
One thing I will mention is that I never really got a sense of character of the supporting cast until the final few chapters of the book. It’s no spoiler to say that a male character is heavily involved in Serena’s death, as that is revealed in the first few pages: so the question becomes which boy of the supporting cast, and why? And while I tend to follow foreshadowing pretty well, I did suspect the wrong character for most of the novel and I didn’t see the motivation from the true culprit until it was revealed. Maybe I struggled with this because several of the male characters seemed to blend in to one.
Overall I really fell and fell hard for Feral. I’m totally buying a hard copy of this novel because I suspect I’ll want to re-read it whenever I want my heart flayed by a master of storytelling.
Thanks to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for providing a free advanced reader’s copy for an honest review.