BOOK REPORT for Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff

Cover Story: Fixer Upper
BFF Charm: Caution
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: Southern Gothic
Bonus Factor: Magic
Relationship Status: Enchanted

 

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Fiendish

Cover Story: Fixer Upper

Somebody call HGTV! This cover strikes the right tone for the book, but the whole "haunted house" thing is a bit misleading, and that title typeface has GOT to go. I do like the subtle detail of the flowers, which ties nicely to the story, but overall, this cover isn't nearly as interesting as its contents.

The Deal:

For the last 10 years, Clementine DeVore's whole world has consisted of a canning closet in the basement, where she has lived, spellbound, with no memory of how she got there. When she's accidentally freed by a boy named Eric Fisher, Clementine returns to a town that is at once familiar and wholly changed. Her mother is dead, but her aunt Myloria and cousin Shiny still live on the edge of the hollow, a forbidden place where magic and spirits mingle. 

In the decade since Clementine was sealed in the cellar, the town has managed an uneasy coexistence with the hollow, and magic (known as the craft) is frowned upon. But her awakening has triggered something wild and dark, a force that threatens not only the natural order of things but the lives of everyone in town. 

BFF Charm: Caution

All I can say is, if I was trapped in a basement for 10 years with roots growing all over me and my favorite toy deteriorating in my frozen hands, I would not be okay. In fact, I would be crazy. Like, bonkers, lock me up, certified LOONEY TUNES BANANAS. So the fact that Clementine is sane, not to mention plucky, is truly admirable. Girlfriend has a ton of gumption, to the point of being reckless, and my attitude toward her constantly vacillated between "You go, girl!" and "DO NOT GO, GIRL. SERIOUSLY. STOP." She really walks that line between brave and foolish, so for the sake of my nerves, I'll need to check her position on that boundary before we make plans to hang out again.  

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Eric Fisher is an "L" away from being an MLD (Mysterious Loner Dude). He's crawling with secrets, and he's got a lot of hidden depth, but he's also the most popular boy in town thanks to his magnetic charm, aka the craft in his blood. In order to blend in, Fisher hides his magic, and his resistance to his true identity results in all kinds of tortured sexiness. It's easy to see why Clementine is drawn to him, but their chemistry could've used a little more show and a bit less tell.

Talky Talk: Southern Gothic

Within the first few chapters, I gladly sunk into the swampy, macabre cadence of Brenna Yovanoff's words. The sultry tone of her writing is compellingly juicy, and the dialogue is steeped in a richly layered culture of small town ignorance and backwoods lore. 

Take, for example, one character's explanation of the craft:

"Well, there are a lot of different kinds of craft. Your grandma was all about dirt, just like Myloria and your mama, and half the Blackwoods as far back as anyone remembers. Dirt is real. It's the living, breathing body of the world, and sometimes real things can scare people."

"Isn't everything real?"

Rae frowned a little and touched her bottom lip. "Oh, no. There's all kinds of things that aren't. Or at least, they don't start out that way. Is having an idea the same as having a trumpet vine?"

"No, but you could have an idea of a trumpet vine and plant a seed, and then it would grow into one."

"See, that's the difference. With dirt, the craft is real to start—the seed and then the vine. The sort of thing I favor starts out pretend. That doesn't mean it isn't power. Just that my way is fiddly. It takes longer. And when you do quiet, fiddly things that take longer, people aren't so scared of you."

The level of foreboding rises steadily throughout the book thanks to flickers of the grotesque, but after such a thrilling buildup, the climax felt rushed and not entirely satisfying. Still, Yovanoff's world of eccentricity and horror is a marvel, and I relished its every nook and cranny.*

*Except for the catfish thing. Oh yeah and the dead body thing. Because GROSS.

Bonus Factor: Magic 

This book's concept of magic is a brew (pun!) of voodoo, ghosts, demons and witchcraft, and I found it fascinating. From the ghastly fiends (spirits) of the hollow to the art of the trickbag, the craft infuses the story with a haunting and engrossing energy. 

Casting Call:

Hailee Steinfeld as Clementine

Dylan O'Brien as Fisher

Relationship Status: Enchanted

Book, you've got one hell of a creepy imagination. I'm not usually turned on by the heebie jeebies, but there's something about your lurid ways and ghoulish wiles that intrigued me, and I was more than happy to fall under your spell.

Fiendish is available now.