Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: The Smaller Evil - Stephanie Kuehn

The Smaller Evil
Stephanie Kuehn
Series: N/A
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Dutton Books
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thanks to Dutton Books and First to Read for the eARC!

The Smaller Evil was definitely a strange book. Almost the entire time I was reading, I had no idea what was going on; but at the same time, I wanted to keep reading to try and figure it out. In the end, I ended up liking it a lot more than I expected to.

The book starts when Arman decides to go on a week long retreat to help cure his supposed "social sickness." In the middle of nowhere in the woods, attendees are expected to pay thousands of dollars to receive treatment, including activities called "Quarantine," "Vespers," and "Inoculation." If this doesn't scream cult, I don't know what does.

At first I was really annoyed by Arman's point of view - homeboy is always confused. He's got a whole slue of mental health problems going on (anxiety, self harm, possibly ADHD, and what seemed like disassociation), and he's really reliant on affirmation from other people, particularly Beau, the head of the camp. Reading from Arman's perspective made me very uneasy; his anxiety really showed through the writing. At the beginning, I really did not like that about he writing, but as I kept going, I realized how the voice was actually brilliant - Stephanie Kuehn makes the reader feel uneasy, anxious, and confused because Arman is all those things. It wasn't an empathetic feeling in relation to the character like reading other books; it was a feeling forced by the way it was written.

There were also moments in the book that were told from unknown perspectives. I enjoyed the shift to these because they were the parts that really gave the clues for understanding what was going to happen.

I wouldn't say this is a traditional mystery, but it definitely is one. And it is seriously thrilling near the end. This is through and through a psychological thriller - throwing your mind on an adventure of ups and downs. I'm no expert on this genre, but I feel like it was done really well - I never would have expected what was going on.

I've seen a lot of reviews were people didn't understand what happened at the end of the book. While I did understand the end of the mystery, I do feel like the ending was abrupt. I would have liked a little more resolution because where Arman ends up in the end is very vague.

Overall, The Smaller Evil was a strange book that I don't think everyone will enjoy. While Arman is a teenager, I don't feel like the story is really Young Adult. Yes, Arman has a bit of a coming of age story in this book, but it's way more complicated than that. If you're looking for something that will mess with your mind and make you question everything that also has culty vibes, this is definitely the book for you.

- Kiersten

Have you read any psychological thrillers?
Let us know in the comments!

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