Initial Insult
by McGinnis, Mindy

Tress Montor's parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home. The entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the 'White Trash Zoo,' a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things. Felicity Turnado has worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. She buried what she knows so deeply that she can't even remember what it is- only that she can't look at Tress without having a panic attack. At a Halloween costume party at an abandoned house, Tress wants either the truth- or revenge. She tries to pry the truth from Felicity by slowly sealing her former best friend into a coal chute... with a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl. - adapted from jacket

In this gothic thriller, first in a duology, McGinnis cleverly weaves elements from Edgar Allen Poe's stories to chronicle the dissolution of a friendship, culminating in a shocking act of vengeance. In Amontillado, Ohio, legacy is everything; founding families are venerated, even as their stately homes decay and their bloodlines wither. Those who can't fulfill expectations are shunned-like Tress, whose parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her friend Felicity home, leaving Tress in the dubious care of her outcast uncle. Tress has never believed that Felicity, found unconscious, remembers nothing, especially when Felicity turned her back on Tress like everyone else. Now a senior, Tress has the perfect plan to force Felicity to tell the truth: it involves a Halloween party at an abandoned estate, a set of manacles, a coal chute, and a ton of bricks. Tress and Felicity both narrate this nail-biter, providing compelling and competing narratives that create empathy for damaged, unlikable characters. Though occasionally straining credulity, the slowly unfolding mystery and chilling cliff-hanger will cement interest for the next volume. Grades 10-12. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Tress would kill to find out why her parents disappeared. In small-town Amontillado, Tress Montor had a seemingly normal life until her parents disappeared. That was seven years ago. Now living with her negligent grandfather at his questionable exotic animal attraction, the high school senior has become a pariah among her classmates. The one person who may know what happened is Felicity Turnado, who not only used to be best friends with Tress, but was the last one to see her parents alive. Told in alternating chapters from each girl's perspective, this thriller starts off as a slow burn with longer chapters establishing their personalities; the nature of the closed-minded, predominantly White town; and the mysterious disappearance. When Tress, bent on truth and revenge, sets up an interrogation of Felicity reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," the story accelerates evenly with shorter, taut chapters delivering the final shocks. The narrative's changing timeline, as each girl remembers events from the past, answers questions and raises intrigue in equal measure; their experiences are gritty reflections of teen life. And in the true spirit of Poe, a black cat, in this case a panther from the zoo, adds another level of creepiness with intermittent free-verse poems told from its perspective. A sudden, nail-biting ending leaves the door open for the next installment of this duology. A dark, Poe-inspired thriller that lives up to the gothic master. (Thriller. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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