Saturday, September 20, 2014



      I'm so excited today, because the one and only YA and middle-grade author, Holly Schindler, has been gracious enough to include my blog as a stop in her blog hop promoting and celebrating (see: balloons, above) the recent release of her first psychological thriller, FERAL.  That title, of course, makes me think of images like this one:

and, in fact, FERAL is in part about wild cats, but they're the small, pet-sized kind, nothing like Leo up there.  But feral housecats can be pretty terrifying too, especially if they're possibly not just cats, but something much more sinister... and they show up in your new town everywhere you turn...

Take it away, Holly!

FERAL falls squarely into the realm of the classic psychological thriller. While the book features mystery, horror, and paranormal elements, the emphasis is on the "psychological" rather than thriller / action. The novel features a Hitchcockian pace and focus on character development (here, we’re exploring the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain). Essentially, every aspect of FERAL is used to explore Claire’s inner workings—that even includes the wintry Ozarks setting. The water metaphor is employed frequently in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious, and here is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm (that represents Claire’s "frozen" inner state). The attempt to untangle what is real from what is unreal (another frequently-used aspect of the psychological thriller) also begins to highlight the extent to which Claire was hurt in that Chicago alley. Even the explanation of the odd occurrences in the town of Peculiar offers an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche. Ultimately, FERAL is a book about recovering from violence—that’s not just a lengthy or hard process; it’s a terrifying process, too. The classic psychological thriller allowed me to explore that frightening process in detail.

While the focus is on Claire’s inner workings, we do see other characters struggling, too. Actually, FERAL takes place in a time of town-wide crisis: Peculiar has been hit with a paralyzing ice storm. And a local teen girl is missing.

I often get asked what parts of my books have been taken from real life. In 2007 (and again in 2008), my hometown was hit with a paralyzing ice storm. And over twenty years ago, I was a high school student when two girls from my school went missing. I know how both incidents impacted my town…While there is a bit of neighborly sharing during those times of disaster, the true concern (at least, from my own observations) tends to turn inward. Toward your own family, your own home. And as time goes on, it becomes increasingly easy to overreact, to let your own worries make you edgy and strange. I remember how frazzled and easily annoyed everyone could get three days (or in some cases, three weeks) without power during the ice storms. And after the disappearance of two students, the atmosphere in my high school completely changed; teachers turned increasingly protective of their own students, hallways were locked down during lunch, cheerleaders were given pepper spray for protection, etc.

In many ways, FERAL reflects my own experiences and observations of the way a small(ish) town behaves in a time of crisis. Fear over safety and grief over the loss of a friend makes the characters in FERAL behave oddly. Those odd behaviors only feed into the overall tone of the book—force the reader to ask, "What is going on here? Who’s responsible for Serena’s disappearance—and death?" (The reader is involved in the attempt to figure out what is real, which, as I stated, is a tried-and-true element of the psychological thriller.)

In many ways, Claire walks into a perfect storm. Perhaps, if she had arrived in Peculiar three months after that ice storm, or had Serena not died, her classmates would have seen her own behavior as strange. Claire would have stood out; her problems would have been obvious from the get-go. But everything is strange in Peculiar when Claire arrives. Everyone is on edge. Everyone is grieving and caught up in the web of their own bad feelings, remorse. The moments when Claire overreacts, giving the reader a clue that she isn’t quite as okay as she insists (pointing a box cutter at Rich the first time she meets him, running into the woods upon getting an offer for a ride home) are surrounded by hardships: the desperation associated with an ice storm, the discovery of a dead girl’s body. So Claire’s behavior simply meshes into the other strange things that occur in the course of the book.

In a sense, the ice storm and the brutal death of Serena make the characters wild, crazed, too—the cats aren’t the only untamed creatures walking the streets of Peculiar in FERAL…
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Thank you, Holly!

Weird...  Holly looks so sweet, doesn't she?

What's that they say about not judging a book by its cover?  Oh, and just in case you're not terrified enough yet,  you probably need to watch this book trailer:

And here's what some other people have to say about FERAL, in the jacket copy:

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.

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     In case anyone reading this doesn't know from my umpteen previous posts about her, I am a diehard Holly Schindler groupie, constantly dazzled by her talent, range, and fearlessness.  It seems that there's no subject matter she's too afraid to tackle, and she is always testing her own limits and setting herself new challenges.  This is her official bio:

Holly Schindler is the author of the critically acclaimed A BLUE SO DARK (Booklist starred review, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year silver medal recipient, IPPY Awards gold medal recipient) as well as PLAYING HURT (both YAs).

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,, @holly_schindler,, and
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And now, to truly make this an all-Holly Schindler day, this is what you need to do at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time:  attend this Google+ hangout chat with Holly and other authors!
Hear Holly herself tell you about FERAL!

And on the off-chance that you don't win the FERAL giveaway that accompanies that chat, here is an added bonus:
Rafflecopter form for a giveaway of a signed hardcover of FERAL (running Sept. 17-Sept. 28):    

I mean, really?  Why would you NOT want to take advantage of TWO chances to win a free copy of FERAL?  Have you not been paying attention here????



  1. This is definitely on my to-read list! It sounds like a thrilling read.