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Reviewed by:
  • The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
  • Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor

McGinnis, Mindy The Initial Insult. Tegen/HarperCollins, 2021 [384p] Trade ed. ISBN 9780062982421 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 9780062982445 $9.99 Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 7-10

Nearly seven years ago, Tress Montor's parents disappeared without a trace, and she went from living a middle-class life to staying with her drunk grandfather in a trailer, working at the Amontillado Animal Attractions. She mostly blames Felicity Turnado, her former best friend, who is the last person to see the Montors alive but claims she doesn't remember a thing. Now the high schoolers are throwing one last rager at the crumbling Allan mansion before it's torn down and Tress seizes the opportunity for revenge; armed with manacles, cement, bricks and a trowel, she coerces Felicity into the basement, intent on either forcing her to tell the truth or making sure she can never speak again. Even readers with only a glancing knowledge of Edgar Allan Poe's works will likely recognize the various namedrops here, from the aforementioned Amontillado to Tress' aunt Lenore Usher and Tress' parents Annabelle and Lee, while true Poe fanatics will absolutely revel in the more subtle nods, from Felicity's jester costume to Tress' favorite zoo pal, the orangutan, to the flu that eventually spreads through the party. Even without the Poe allusions, however, this is a wickedly disturbing and wildly entertaining tale of vengeance, guilt, and secrets, as the two girls narrate the friendship they once had, the event that tore them apart, and the very different lives they've led since. Laser focused on popularity and perfection, Felicity is the picture of a mean girl, but it's obviously Tress who is the really sadistic one here, coolly calculating the tools and time needed to properly torture Felicity; her actions, however, eventually break down both girls, leaving them raw and beaten both emotionally and physically. The unsettling ending will similarly gut readers, and Poe enthusiasts will appreciate McGinnis' adherence to her inspiration's darkness. [End Page 224]



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