The Initial Insult

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Feb. 2021. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062982421.
Gr 9 Up–Tress Montor lost everything the night her parents disappeared seven years ago: her family, her friends, and the respect her last name usually demands in the town of Amontillado. Now she lives on the Amontillado Animal Sanctuary—what the locals call “the White Trash Zoo”—with her alcoholic grandfather Cecil and a motley assortment of animals. The town has turned its back on her, and she wants answers—or revenge. Felicity Turnado doesn’t have a storied surname and everything that’s perfect in her life she’s earned on her own: her grades, her popularity, and the respect of the community. What isn’t perfect is that her former best friend, Tress, won’t even look at her. Felicity was with the Montors the night they vanished, but she’s worked so hard to make the community forget she was there that she herself doesn’t remember what happened. Sick of being the butt of everyone’s jokes, Tress has a plan to get Felicity to talk—one that involves a costume party in the crumbling Usher House, an empty coal chute, and a pile of bricks. McGinnis draws heavily upon the works of Edgar Allan Poe to deliver a gripping modern retelling of “The Cask of Amontillado.” Tress and Felicity are expertly fleshed out; the chapters are written from alternating viewpoints of the two girls across their entire friendship. Their linked tragedy and trauma is expressed in prose that is by turns gritty and heart-rending, and they join a lineup of strong, flawed, and intriguing McGinnis main characters. As the first book in a duology, the story ends in a cliff-hanger, which heightens anticipation for the second installment. Most characters are white.
VERDICT Well-versed Poe fans will gobble this up, but the heartache, revenge, and anger that ooze from these pages should entice any reader.

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