Title: Foul is Fair
Author: Hannah Capin
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Teen Suspense
Age Range: Upper YA
Trigger Warnings: sexual abuse, violence (drugging and rape), self-harm,
Thank you to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the ARC. All opinions expressed are my own.
Synopsis: Jade and her friends Jenny, Mads, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Jade’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Jade as their next target.
They picked the wrong girl.
Sworn to vengeance, Jade transfers to St. Andrew’s Prep. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.
Please read before continuing. I have to tell y’all, this review was a mess to write. For the past few days, I’ve been very conflicted about what to say about Foul is Fair because I want to make sure that I’m being real with you about the books we feature on this blog. Before reading this book, I read some reviews that made me think twice about how to frame this review. The content warnings are no joke; there are mentions of rape and drugging and murder. I wanna highlight some points that could determine whether or not you decide to move forward, either with this post or with the book itself. First of all, Jade tells her parents about the rape and tells them not to involve the police because she’ll handle it herself, and ultimately, they let her. This is wrong. Good (even decent) adults report it, no matter what. Second, there is very little consideration for real-life consequences. I don’t condone revenge via murder. I’m not gonna tell anyone how to process their emotions or deal with what has/is happening to them, but straight up murder with no consideration of consequences isn’t realistic, and is more serious than I think it’s laid out in this book.
That being said, I think that Foul is Fair, being marketed as a feminist retelling of Macbeth, while it is fiction, can have very real effects. One of the main reasons I added this explanation was because rape and sexual abuse are sensitive topics, especially for survivors, and I wanted to make sure that I’m doing them a justice by explaining that just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean that it can’t still be harmful – please prioritize your health and don’t read this if you have even the slightest doubt that you might not be able to handle it. I will say that I enjoyed the book for what it made me think about and how I considered it, but I don’t recommend this lightly. Because all of the characters are teenagers in high school and the content is so not high-school aged, I felt that I needed to ensure that I wasn’t handling it lightly. If the themes in shows like Game of Thrones or the original Macbeth bother you, I would avoid this book.
They belong to me, and I to them.
My Review: There were so many interesting dynamics to consider, and if you’ve read (or watched) any version of Macbeth, it was cool to connect the parallels between the book and the original. Elle – excuse me, Jade – Khanjara and her “coven” are the girls who know how to play the game, because they invented it. In many ways, they actually kinda reminded me of the girls from Pretty Little Liars with their whole “we run the world” attitude. After the incident, Jade immediately goes to Jenny, Mads, and Summer, who interestingly play the role of the three witches, and starts planning her revenge. These girls would do anything and everything for each other, and the dedication they have to each other is incredible.
On the flip side, their relationship mirrors that of the St. Andrew’s boys, AKA Jade’s targets. Jade is not their first victim, and the entire lacrosse team knows it, and even worse, they keep their mouths shut because like Jade and her crew, Duncan and the team are untouchable. Except Jade finds the blind spots and rips them apart from the inside. In this sense, it was interesting to see how the loyalties of each group are put to the test, and to see that the girls are tied together with something more than loyalty, while the boys are held together by fear and secrets. And the thing about being put on a pedestal? Eventually, you fall.
Jet black Revenge.
Where’s the line between revenge and justice? To Jade, they’re the same thing, and I so appreciate the fact that Jade may be the protagonist, but whether or not she’s a hero is up for debate. Yes, she wants justice for herself, and for every one of the golden boys’ victims. She isn’t the first, but she’ll make damn sure she is the last. And this isn’t justice, it’s Revenge. Throughout the entire book, Jade has flashbacks of that night and uses it to fuel her focus. Connor. Banks. Duncan. Duffy. She remembers what they did, what they said, and I think a lot of characters and revenge plots follow this same single-minded line of thought, and sometimes, somewhere along the way, they realize they’re too far gone to go back.
At first, Jade is completely in control: she knows who her targets are, how to get to them, and how to get away with it. When she meets Mack, he’s the noble dude who still turns the other cheek when it comes to Duncan and his friends’ crimes, but deep down he wants to be different, and that doesn’t happen until Jade comes and fuels his ambition, his will to take what is theirs and be better than they ever were. What I found particularly riveting was when Jade starts to understand that she might not be as untouchable as she thought. She starts out invincible, and then she realizes that she knows she may fall eventually, but she doesn’t care. As long as they fall first. At this point, Jade gets (even more) reckless, and even her coven feels the need to question her sense, but still, they are hers, and she is theirs – her revenge is theirs, too.
My favorite underlying theme was a big ol’ fuck you to elitism and golden boys, whose daddies’ money gets them out of anything and everything, and whose status makes them think they’re beyond rules and human decency. If nothing else, I liked that Jade wanted to disrupt the entire hierarchy, and I think she got revenge the way she did because she knew that their money would ultimately protect them, although I don’t think that was portrayed in the book.
Foul is Fair was thought-provoking and will definitely sit with me for a long time, and I think good and/or controversial books do. In the time of #MeToo, I think that this book is meant to highlight survivors and the uniqueness of their experiences and the reclamation of their bodies, and while I don’t necessarily love the aging and how things were justified, I can respect the perspective.
In the middle of writing this review, I had to call Lauren just to clear my head and voice what I actually meant. One of my main points is the “Yes, and”-ness of the book. Yes, Jade is a victim of sexual abuse and wanted justice and/or revenge on her abusers, and that doesn’t mean that her methods were right or heroic. Yes, Foul is Fair is a fictional feminist Macbeth in the Me Too movement, and for some it can have a very distorted view of survivors and how they deal with their abuse. Nothing is ever 100% black and white, and more than ever, we need to realize that. I appreciated this book for putting that fact into yet another context for me, and because I’m not a survivor, my view could be completely skewed.
Overall, I really wanted to highlight the tension that Foul is Fair brings to light and a lot of the inner dialogue that I had while reading. Foul is fair and fair is foul. In this book, nothing could be more true.
Peace out, witches.