Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin is the feminist Macbeth retelling that I didn’t know I needed until I read it. It’s powerful and evocative and a book I won’t soon forget.
About Foul is Fair
Publisher: Wednesday Books | Release Date: February 18, 2020 | Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Retelling | Format: eBook | Source: Publisher via Netgalley
They picked the wrong girl.
Sworn to vengeance, Elle transfers to St. Andrew’s. 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.
Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.
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My Review for Foul Is Fair
Narrative style: first person | Perspective(s): single
This book has rended my heart and spoken to my soul. Its prose flows freely, layers of meaning shrouded behind every word. This won’t be a book for everyone, but it certainly was for ME. I loved it with my whole heart and loved the feeling of empowerment that I got from reading this feminist retelling of Macbeth. This book is dark, twisted, and powerful.
“Fair is foul and foul is fair – another spell.”
So much of what I love about this book is how it retells Macbeth. How it lends itself to analysis and comparison. But I don’t want to spoil any of that for you, dear friend. Making those connections was a delight for me, but I think that the story will stand on its own so that people not familiar with The Scottish Play will enjoy it too. But there are countless references sprinkled in as well.
“You brought the storm with you, new girl.”
From the author: “the primary thematic material is sexual assault, rape culture, and violence. Please take care of yourselves and make sure you are in the right space before picking this one up.”
Foul is Fair is an intensely feminist retelling and one that I found especially empowering. Our main character Elle went to a party with her three best friends on her sixteenth birthday. The golden boys of St. Andrews Prep, drunk with power and unchecked privilege, choose her as their next conquest. But she is no victim. She and her best friends will stop at nothing to destroy them all.
“My beautiful deadly girls with their loyalty so strong nothing could break it.”
Honestly, I couldn’t stop thinking about Jade and rooting for her success despite the fact that she and her friends being horrible bitches in their own right before everything happened. But I love how unwaveringly supportive not only her friends are, but also her parents. The latter of whom don’t have a big role in the book, but considering so many victims of sexual assault experience the antithesis of support, it was really nice to see everyone close to her believe her story and want to help her. Sure, they are supporting her murder-y vengeance spree, which isn’t good, but this isn’t meant to be a story mirroring real life in that way. It’s a retelling of Macbeth. (More on this later in the review.)
“Every mark they left, everything they did, didn’t even get close to breaking me. I’m ten times stronger than they’ll ever be. A thousand times more ruthless.”
I absolutely loved the writing style of this book, poetic and layered with metaphor. It won’t be for everyone, but it evokes a similar tone to Macbeth that I couldn’t help but be captivated by. The words are sharp and biting and Capin makes use of foreshadowing and repetition – particularly lines of importance from the play – to drive the point home. Like the source material, Fair is Foul centers on the inversion of morality and signals this with the title (one half from a crucial line from the play).
“White lilies blossom thick under my words. A snake weaves through their stems, but no one will see if until it’s wrapped itself around them and choked their breath away.”
This book reads like a classic but is set in modern-day Los Angeles. I’ll admit that I had a difficult time suspending my disbelief at first because for some reason it felt almost jarring to read about a group of girls set for murderous destruction. Which got me thinking about how odd that is? Why do we hold contemporaries to a standard of reality? Heck, look at the news. Horrible and outlandish things happen every day. So why do I feel like I need to justify the actions or prose in spite of the setting? It’s still a story, and it’s an important one. I don’t know why modern-setting must equate believability and this is something that I want to challenge with myself moving forward.
I really loved Foul is Fair. Its powerful prose is laden with meaning and I was captivated from the very beginning. While I did struggle a bit to settle into the narrative flow, I absolutely loved it and am tempted to write a spoiler-y analysis for my blog because I just want to dive deep into textual analysis. This book won’t be for everyone, but I do recommend it if what I described sounds like something you would enjoy!
Content warnings: (from author) sexual assault (not depicted), rape culture, and violence, abusive relationship, suicide attempt, and a brief scene depicting transphobic bullying
Representation: lesbian and transgender secondary characters
Many thanks to the publisher for providing me an electronic ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. Quotations taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon final publication.