HomeBooks by SubjectBooks with Girl CharactersFeral, A Psychological Thriller Discussed by Author Holly Schindler
Feral By Holly Schindler

Feral, A Psychological Thriller Discussed by Author Holly Schindler

Holly SchindlerThe Children’s Book Review | August 26, 2014


FERAL Jacket Copy

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….

FERAL’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.


Feral By Holly SchindlerFERAL is a book about recovering from violence. To me, that’s not just a hard or long process; dealing with the ramifications of a violent act—looking at that violent act square in the face and addressing the aftermath—is a terrifying process. I needed a genre that would allow me to adequately depict that terror. Nothing fit quite like the psychological thriller.

FERAL is a psychological thriller in the classic sense. In fact, I pictured many of the scenes—for example, a scene in which Claire races into a patch of Peculiar woods and finds the body of Serena Sims—in black and white. Like classic psychological thrillers, FERAL features a Hitchcockain pace and focus on character development (here, we’re exploring the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain). The water metaphor—frequently employed in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious or unconscious mind—is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm that represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state, her lack of ability to move on from a violent act, though she insists she’s fine.

Another frequently-used aspect of the classic psychological thriller is the search to discover what is real. That’s a big, big part of FERAL. Soon after moving to Peculiar, Claire literally comes face-to-face with the ravaged body of her dead classmate. She also learns of a suicide that took place in the school basement, and of an urban legend that insists the ghost of this student still haunts the scene of his gruesome demise. She discovers that in the days leading up to her death, Serena was researching a journalism story regarding the urban legend.

Soon after, Claire begins to see spirits—of the town dead, of the classmate in the basement, of Serena herself. We know that Claire has been hurt by what happened in Chicago—more so than she’s willing to admit. But what had Serena been doing in the basement before her death? How can Claire dismiss the spiritual visions when Peculiar has a history of urban legends that just might very well be true?

These aspects—the chilling surroundings, the elements of mystery, horror, and paranormal genres, the search for what is real—all combine to create a picture of complete and total unrelenting fear. THAT’S the kind of fear I believe follows a violent act. And no other genre would have allowed me to depict that quite like the psychological thriller.

About the Author
Holly Schindler

Holly Schindler

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. KirkusReviews called 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, teen 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 http://hollyschindler.tumblr.com/

FERAL Trailer

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The Children’s Book Review, named one of the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) Great Web Sites for Kids, is a resource devoted to children’s literacy. We publish reviews and book lists of the best books for kids of all ages. We also produce author and illustrator interviews and share literacy based articles that help parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians to grow readers. This article was written and provided by a guest author.

  • This books looks so good. I am a thriller fan, all kinds. This one is on my tbr list now! I recommend In The Company of Wolves by James Michael Larranaga, foreverlands.com is his site. His book is not ordinary and that is why I love it! Any recs are appreciated as well! Thanks for the review!

    August 27, 2014

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