YA Review: Foul is Fair

Title: Foul is Fair
Author: Hannah Capin
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

A revenge thriller for the #MeToo generation, this book is uncompromising. From the calculating actions of the abusers to the absolute destruction dealt out by the central character and her loyal friends, the plot is unwavering in its drive for payback and revenge.

The story is inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and the paranoia, ambition, manipulation, and murder of the play are all here. Jade, the central character, takes the Lady Macbeth role, with her best friends taking on the roles of the witches. Working together, they manipulate the Lacrosse-playing rich boys who drug and assault Jade at a party, fracturing their friendships and ensuring that they turn against each other. The fear that someone in the group will expose their actions (Jade isn’t the first girl they have attacked together) pits the boys against each other, allowing Jade to orchestrate her revenge while keeping her hands mostly clean – at least as far as anyone outside the group would suspect.

The story – including the ending – is not a direct retelling of Macbeth, but there are nods to the play throughout the book. The best friends confront the boys with threats and prophecies, while keeping their identities hidden. Jade has her ‘out, damn spot‘ moment, and the Macbeth character finds himself entirely under her influence. There are uncanny elements to the story – unanticipated storms, spooky black birds – but it is a thoroughly modern burner phone that allows Jade and the witches to manipulate and threaten the boys and their friends via text message.

After the attack, Jade transfers to the boys’ expensive school, St Andrews, thus symbolically moving herself to Scotland and the world of the play. In an echo of Lady Macbeth’s ‘unsex me here / and fill me from the crown to the toe topfull / of direst cruelty‘ speech, Jade reinvents herself. She cuts her hair and dyes it black (the colour is called ‘Revenge’), changes school, and changes her name from ‘Elle’ to Jade. Her friends support her transformation, and there is no doubt that she uses it to steel herself and prepare for remorseless revenge on her attackers. The boys are named after characters from the play (Duncan, Malcolm, Banks, Duffy, Porter, and Mack), and Mack’s hilltop home is called ‘Inverness’.

As a protagonist, Jade is uncompromising and uncomfortable. Her actions are extreme, but as she relives the events of the party and the assault in chilling and fragmented flashbacks, they are also entirely understandable. The reader can relate to her determination to destroy the boys who tried to destroy her, and this makes for an uncomfortable read. I found myself cheering on murder and manipulation, always waiting for the boys to realise the danger they were in.

The attack itself is described with a very light touch. The reader has no doubt as to what happened to Jade, but her memories are reduced to flashbulb moments by the drugs the boys put in her drink.

This is a challenging book. I found my sympathies shifting between Jade and her friends, and the boys they were so easily and coldly destroying. It certainly delivers revenge, and the ambition and paranoia of Shakespeare’s story. It also asks the reader to sympathise with someone who deliberately makes herself ruthless and cold. As much as I wanted her to succeed, I ended up wondering whether her actions had finally destroyed her, even as she fought to assert her identity as a survivor, and an avenger, instead of a victim. It’s a powerful story, cleverly told, but definitely not a feel-good book.

Have you read Foul is Fair? What did you think of the story? What did you think about Jade, and the coven? And what about the boys? Where did your sympathies lie? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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