the initial insult

Hi friends! This was the book I received for my February Bookish Box! Each month you get a new title -often they’re signed or have unique covers or artwork – along with some really cute goodies and things from small artists. I’m not a Bookish Box affiliate or partner (I wish!), but you can sign up using my referral link here, if you’re interested.

Synopsis & Quick Thoughts

The Initial Insult is the first book in a duology by author Mindy McGinnis. In Amontillado, Ohio, your name is everything. When Tess Montor’s parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tess lost everything she had. She now lives with her grandfather at his zoo on the edge of town, shunned by the rest of Amontillado. Her best friend, Felicity, has everything Tess doesn’t: looks, money, and a family. She also has a secret that Tess is determined to uncover. At the town’s annual Halloween party, Tess pries the truth from Felicity brick by brick as she seals her best friend in a coal chute. Either Felicity must remember what happened on that night with Tess’s parents, or suffer the consequences.

I think this book is so clever. It’s a cute and well-done tribute to Edgar Allen Poe. I thought the plot, at its core, was good. We love to see a good revenge story and this one was quality, solid fun. However, this book gets muddled by a lot of other nonsense that actively takes away from the enjoyment of the main plot. Sigh.

Positives

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a revenge story and this one was just a good ol time. This book is the first in a duology and I really like duologies because it’s all the fun of a sequel minus the commitment to a long ass series. I think I’ll pick up the second one when it comes out in the future since I had fun reading this. This novel was a nice easy read and I got through it pretty quickly.

I thought the plot was interesting and fast-paced. I liked the characters (although they’re not particularly likeable) and their development; even the secondary characters were three-dimensional. I really enjoyed the elements of Poe’s stories without it being a rip-off or direct retelling (if you’re interesting in reading the short story this novel is based off of, check out The Cask of Amontillado here). Plus, y’all know that I love when a book with an announced sequel has a contained plot within the first novel, and this book does just that. I felt like I got a satisfying ending within the first book, and if I decided not to continue with the series I wouldn’t feel like I had wasted my time.

Negatives

I think the issue with this book is that it tries to do too much, which ultimately takes away from the main plot points. The main conflict is between Tess and Felicity in the basement of a house. But…there’s also the point of view of a panther that escapes from Tess’s grandfather’s zoo (yes, really), a mysterious illness plaguing the small town, and a large party going on in the house above the two girls where drugs and alcohol are being abused. All that background stuff really doesn’t add to the main plot. I’m not saying every scene in a novel has to contribute to advancing the plot, but there were just too many oddities to keep track of that never really went anywhere.

I’m hoping that these odd plot strands will be addressed in the sequel, but for now they seem like background noise that distracted from the revenge story I actually wanted.

Rating & Final Thoughts

I’m giving The Initial Insult 3.5 out of 5 stars. This was a unique retelling that explored some good old fashioned frenemies through a slow-burning but captivating revenge story. However, the plot we wanted was tainted by confusing and less interesting side stories seemed unnecessary and were never fully addressed. I think if this book’s synopsis captures your attention, check it out! Hopefully the other plot points will be addressed in the sequel.

Buy The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis here.

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