3 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

Title: Foul is Fair

Author: Hannah Capin

Genre: Contemporary YA Thriller

Publisher: Penguin
Publication date: January 16 UK / February 20 US 2020
Hardcover: 336 pages

Four girls seek revenge on the boys who wronged them, golden boys beware.

Jade and her friends Jenny, Mads, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Jade’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Jade as their next target.

They picked the wrong girl.

Sworn to vengeance, Jade transfers to St. Andrew’s Prep. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.

Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Review copy

Format (e- or p-): Paperback



Well, this was not a very good read.

I am interested in this revenge fantasy promising cathartic feminism and empowerment for the #metoo era as a reimagined contemporary YA retelling of Macbeth by way of Heathers and Kill Bill and with Lady Macbeth as a teen girl protagonist. I was all in.

Elle was drugged and gang raped at a party on her 16th birthday and subsequently becomes her own avenger with the help of her three best friends Summer, Mads and Jenny. She tells her loving parents what happened and convinces them no to go to the police and to help her move schools to the exclusive St Andrews prep, where the boys who attacked her attend. Their – the coven’s, as Elle refers to her group – plan is to destroy each boy, one by one, kill them and everybody who was involved with what happened to her and did nothing. They will do that by manipulating their chosen target into doing the deeds for them. He is Mack, a young boy who is just outside enough of the main group to be both innocent (or innocent enough – because he too, knew) and ambitious enough to want to go up the pecking order. Elle changes her hair, her demeanour, her clothes and going by Jade (her middle name), she starts.

With short, theatrical sentences the story progresses at speed of light and therein lies one of its biggest problems. Suspension of disbelief is difficult because of the timeline: for this story to truly and really work, it is imperative that we believe Elle/Jade’s expert manipulation of Mack. It is imperative we believe Mack loves her so much – and also is so ambitious – that he will be easily manipulated into killing all of his friends. And the entire timeline is this: one week. It takes literally ONE DAY and no real interaction at all between Elle and Mack for him to be saying he loves her more than anything and to start killing off his friends. Although a quick timeline is a rather Shakespearean (Romeo and Juliet takes place in four days!) thing, it becomes a real problem here when so much is at stake.

Although I appreciated the fact that Elle has such a supportive group in her friends, characterisation is only skin deep, superficial. Which is a shame because there was interesting diversity here (Mads is a trans latinx character, Elle herself seems to be of Indian background, Summer is bi).

I also don’t know how I feel about the girls being violent, privileged sociopaths which makes them somehow a perfect match for the equally privileged sociopath boys they are killing… but this is part of the framing of the novel: that the boys picked “the wrong girl”. So… what? There is a right girl?    

Revenge fantasies can be very cathartic and powerful but sadly, this was not. Similar recent novels that also engage with the #metoo movement and offer much better, nuanced, thought-provoking revenge fantasies are Sadie by Courtney Summers, The Swallows by Lisa Lutz and The Whisper Network by Chandler Baker.

Rating: 2? 3?

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