Blog Tour/Giveaway: FERAL by Holly Schindler – WHY THE HECK IS A DEAD GIRL STILL FEELING PAIN?
Sep 6th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer




The opening of FERAL centers on a girl who has just died, who is being drawn from the window of her high school. A dead girl who still feels pain.

Unlike Susie Salmon of THE LOVELY BONES, Serena, the murdered Peculiar High student, is not the protagonist of FERAL. Instead, Serena serves as a setup for the rest of the book: Serena is stuck inside a broken body, unable to move yet still able to feel everything. This is reflective of where Claire, the protagonist, is as well. The previous spring, Claire suffered a brutal beating in her hometown of Chicago. As she crosses the city limits of Peculiar with her father (who’s on sabbatical), she swears she’s moved on from the beating…but she hasn’t. She’s stuck—and afraid. Just like Serena.

FERAL is, essentially, a classic psychological thriller—and one of the aspects of a psychological thriller is the quest to untangle what is real from what isn’t real. The spirit of Serena also helps put that quest into motion AND, in the end, helps to draw the line between truth and the imagined.

Many physical events in the book are undeniably real: Serena goes missing and is found dead. Her spirit is forced to let go of the earthly world, make its journey to the afterlife. The town police do overlook clues regarding her death. A former Peculiar High student has died in the basement. A car malfunctions. A feral cat follows Claire.

FERAL also includes what I would call malicious paranormal events: angry ghosts, soul-filled fog. Claire also witnesses Serena’s spirit invading a feral cat’s body. Unhappy with the gnarled, ugly look of the cat she inhabits, the spirit of Serena sets her sights on another body: Claire’s. But during a scene at the school dance toward the end of the book, these malicious events are revealed to be something else—namely, a horrifying truth about Claire. The spirit of Serena, as Claire has been seeing it, really reflects (again) Claire’s own unspoken desires—mostly, to be free of her own gnarled, post-beating body.

At the end of the book, Serena’s POV offers a sense of closure, but also emphasizes what has been real and what hasn’t: while Serena is a spirit, she denounces one last time any possibility of her having haunted Claire, claiming the story Claire tells her at the cemetery about seeing her inside a cat is “strange”—outside of her own experiences.Feral HC

What I most love about Serena’s voice and spiritual character, as she appears in FERAL, is that she serves to both propel the action and illuminate Claire’s internal story.


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.


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.


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. KirkusReviewscalled 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, 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 hollyschindler.com, hollyschindler.blogspot.com, @holly_schindler, Facebook.com/HollySchindlerAuthor, and hollyschindler.tumblr.com

a Rafflecopter giveaway

»  Substance: WordPress   »  Style: Ahren Ahimsa
© Copyright 2020 Liza Wiemer