I’m a lifelong Missouri girl—actually, I’m a sixth generation Missouri girl. I live in the SW corner of the state, in an area my hometown likes to refer to as a “city.” Sure, we’ve got the universities and hotels and hospitals and five o’clock traffic to support that theory. I think, though, that plenty of newcomers to the town might beg to differ with that classification. For instance, my own neighborhood butts up against an open field surrounded by barbed wire—a field that’s often dotted with hay bales. When I was growing up, my house was a block away from a small farm, complete with horses and a barn. Today, I don’t have to be in the car more than two, three minutes, tops, before seeing various farm animals: cows, mules, horses, etc.
Author Holly Schindler
The rural touches to my landscape can be incredibly beautiful: the wildflowers popping up beside the roads, the thick green grass, the clear blue skies...But there’s something about a rural area (maybe it’s the “untamed” quality of undeveloped lots) that can also have a scary feel, too.
That’s why my top 3 creepiest locations in Missouri are all rural features:
1. Wooded areas—Little pockets of woods pop up all through my hometown. I can think of a few thick sections of trees right off, all of which are walking distance from my house. Those areas aren’t large, but when you step into a wooded patch, you definitely get the hair rising on the back of your neck, and you get that worried twist in your gut. It always feels like you’re exposed, and anyone—or any creature—could be hiding right there behind a tree, ready to pounce...
2. Caves—Missouri is completely loaded with caves. I’ve been in a few—complete with stalactites and stalagmites and bats...There’s something about being underground, in a large, open, relatively empty space that’s really off-putting as well. It’s got kind of a “burial” feel, actually.
3. Heights—I’ll admit I’m not big on heights anyway. I have really awful eyesight—my vision’s 20/700! Just looking at something tall can make me dizzy. But the Missouri landscape is also riddled with hills—the Ozark Mountains. The rugged, rocky, rough hills in the Ozarks can also give me goose bumps—especially in the winter, when the trees on those hills are bare, and the rocky landscape is completely exposed...It just has a such a stark, brutal appearance...Even more so when those hills drop off into a winter lake covered in a dangerously thin sheet of ice...
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Source of my copy: Edelweiss/HarperTeen
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
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.
But I wanted to know Claire's fate by the end of the novel--will she eventually join Serena's spirit? Yet, I never fully connected with Claire or any of the characters in Feral, despite being invested in wanting to know what will happen to her. It was hard to connect with Claire. In the small glimpse we had of her before she was assaulted, she seemed very full of herself. I was horrified with what she went through, but even after I never really warmed up to her.
My favorite thing about the novel was the setting. The ice storm, the creaking trees, the cold, wet ground, the grotesque feral cats, the fog... all of these make the novel very atmospheric and I was able to picture Peculiar in my mind so clearly.
Oh, and if you're curious if whether there's a romance or not, well, there's really wasn't. There were hints of maybe something more between Claire and her neighbor Rich a bit down the road, but there was really none during the novel. The focus was more on the suspense and the mystery, which I actually appreciated--there's really no room for a true romance in this story.
My thoughts about Feral is all over the place. It's one of those books where I didn't love it but I didn't hate it. I liked it and I read it fairly quickly but I had issues with it. Some parts of the novel dragged and other parts I was riveted. I gotta say, though, it was a fascinating look at a victim in the aftermath of a horrible crime. If you like psychological thrillers, I do think Feral is worth picking up. It was dark, it was freaky at times, especially the scenes with the cats (I'm a cat person but in this book they were EEEWWWW!!) and it did take some strange turns.
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.”
Feral is Schindler’s third YA and first psychological thriller. Publishers Weekly gave Feral a starred review, stating, “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.”
Schindler encourages readers to get in touch. Booksellers, teen librarians, and teachers can also contact her directly regarding Skype visits. She can be reached at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com, and can also be found at hollyschindler.com, hollyschindler.blogspot.com, @holly_schindler, Facebook.com/HollySchindlerAuthor, and hollyschindler.tumblr.com
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