From the publisher:
the primary thematic material of FOUL IS FAIR centers on sexual assault (not depicted), rape culture, and violence. additionally, the book includes an abusive relationship, a suicide attempt, and a brief scene with transphobic bullying. for a more detailed description of sensitive content, continue reading. these notes will contain spoilers for FOUL IS FAIR.
sexual assault, rape, rape culture, gender-based violence: this content is integral to FOUL IS FAIR and is referenced in nearly every chapter. assault is not depicted on the page, but there are a number of flashbacks that may be upsetting to some readers. if you are not comfortable with material that closely examines sexual trauma, FOUL IS FAIR will not be a safe book for you.
abusive relationship: two major characters in FOUL IS FAIR are involved in a relationship that is physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive. this element is present throughout the book. physical abuse is not depicted, but is alluded to and shown in aftermath. the relationship is challenged and the individual experiencing abuse ultimately escapes her abusive partner.
physical violence, gore, murder: many chapters and scenes throughout FOUL IS FAIR depict on-page physical violence. various characters contemplate and commit violent acts including murder. more than one murder includes gore. the narrative of the book condones violence as a means of vigilante justice.
bullying and transphobia: several brief scenes reference childhood bullying. one scene portrays potentially lethal bullying (chapter title: CONFESSION). another scene portrays transphobic bullying (chapter title: LAIR); this ideology is challenged immediately and the trans character maintains her agency throughout.
suicide: there are two brief scenes portraying a suicide attempt (chapter title: BLOOD) and its aftermath (chapter title: MOURNING). the attempt is not part of larger suicidal ideation and does not result in death. one additional scene suggests the possibility of a suicide attempt (chapter title: RED).
substance abuse: throughout FOUL IS FAIR, various underage characters consume alcohol and smoke marijuana. there are direct and indirect references to prescription drug abuse and cocaine. characters discuss buying and selling drugs, including recreational drugs as well as roofies/rohypnol.
vigilantism and revenge: FOUL IS FAIR presents and narratively condones revenge and vigilante justice.
And on to the book…
I point at my hair, and I say, This color. You know what it’s called?
She shakes her head: No.
I say, REVENGE.
She says Good girl. Kill him.
Revenge is a bitch.
Jade Khanjara and her three best friends rule their glittering LA circle. They control everything.
Until one night.
The night four boys spike Jade’s drink, lock her in a room and attack her. When they try to ruin her.
But they chose the wrong girl.
Jade is made of claws and fangs and cruel sharp edges. Jade will have them clutching at their throats and choking on blood.
She wants revenge. She has no mercy. And now she won’t rest until she gets satisfaction.
Judging from a lot of reviews, this is a book that really divides opinion, which isn’t surprising, as I can’t decide what I think about it myself!
The good points:
- It’s very well-written, with a rather unusual style, and parts that feel almost poetic in places
- It’s based on Macbeth!
- It’s definitely a page-turner and, unusually for me these days I’m afraid, I didn’t skip ahead at all
- The revenge is gory, bloody, horrible – and extremely deserved
- It tears open a world of privilege where the rich and well-connected, especially rich and well-connected men, act without consequence and don’t care who they hurt in the process
- It reminded me a bit of ‘Heathers’ (still an excellent film!)
The bad points:
- Everyone is extremely rich and extremely spoilt and so I didn’t warm to anyone
- It was very, very far-fetched in places (but then, so is the idea that a young woman won’t be blamed if she’s attacked by wealthy, well-connected men)
- There are some troubling aspects such as Jade not telling her parents about the attack, but I can see why the author chose for her not to do this, as part of the point of the narrative is that she won’t be believed if she reports them, and, even if she is, they won’t get the punishment they deserve
There have been so many horrible, high-profile cases like this, particularly in the US, where a young man’s future is held in higher regard and given more weight than a young girl’s trauma. For example, there’s the Brock Turner case, where a lighter sentence was allegedly given to a man convicted of the sexual assault and attempted rape of an unconscious woman (or, as his father called it, ‘twenty minutes of action’), because a prison sentence would have ‘a severe impact’ and ‘adverse collateral consequences’ on Turner.
So there is definitely something rewarding about a book where a young woman and her friends take control like this, and the perpetrators find themselves as the victims. But, for me, it was too difficult to relate to the women, and the way they lived. They could only get revenge because they too were privileged, which felt a bit contradictory.
That said, it’s a satisfying read, and a very interesting idea for a novel. And the writing pushes it from a 3.5 star to a four star read for me.