Reviews: THE INITIAL INSULT & DESTINATION ANYWHERE
Happy Friday! I hope you’ve all had a great week. Mine was pretty good, just swamped at work as our busy season gets fully underway. I still managed to get some reading done this week though, so I have two new ARC reviews to share today. On the surface these are two books that are very different from one another, one with a dark vibe and one with a more uplifting vibe. The theme that they both share, however, is friendship — friendships lost and friendships found.
The Initial Insult (The Initial Insult, #1) Goodreads
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publication Date: February 23, 2021
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary audio copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Even though I haven’t really been in the mood for dark reads lately, I couldn’t resist Mindy McGinnis’ new novel, The Initial Insult. First because I’m a big fan of McGinnis’ writing, and second, because The Initial Insult is a modern day retelling of the classic Edgar Allan Poe short story, The Cask of Amontillado. I love Edgar Allan Poe and The Cask of Amontillado is a favorite of mine, so this was a must read. You don’t have to have read the classic Poe tale to understand and appreciate McGinnis’ version though so don’t let not having read the original deter you. While it somewhat mirrors Poe’s classic tale of revenge, The Initial Insult is at its core a story about a friendship that has fallen apart and all of the residual hurt feelings that still linger between the two former friends.
The Initial Insult follows Tress Montor, whose parents disappeared without a trace seven years ago. The last person to see them alive? Tress’ then best friend, Felicity Turnado. Tress’ life has pretty much fallen apart since her parents disappeared, while Felicity has become the social climbing belle of the ball, so to speak. As their lives have moved in such opposite directions, so has their friendship until they basically become more enemies than friends. It drives Tress crazy that Felicity can offer no insight into what happened to her parents, so she devises a dark and twisted plan to force Felicity to confess everything she remembers about that night because Tress is convinced she has been lying for all of these years. Tress’ plan involves bricks, mortar, manacles, and a party with lots of distractions so that no one will notice she and Felicity have gone missing. Sounds sinister, right? Because it totally is!
I don’t want to give away anything else about the story, but it’s definitely a wild ride and a dark and twisted one at that. I do have to say that I wasn’t a huge fan of either girl, although I did sympathize with them both as we learn more and more about their friendship and about some other secrets they are each hiding. They are both tragic characters in their own way, and Tress is definitely one of the more interesting and complex morally gray characters I’ve come across.
I do want to forewarn anyone who is sensitive when it comes to animals being harmed in books, there is a pretty devastating incident involving a family pet. I hope that’s not a spoiler, but I wish I had known it was coming when I started reading so I could mentally prepare myself for it.
The Initial Insult is a dark and heartbreaking read that ends on a jaw dropping note. I didn’t realize until I got to the end that it’s actually the first book in a duology, so I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book, which is apparently named The Last Laugh. 4 STARS
Destination Anywhere Goodreads
Author: Sara Barnard
Publication Date: February 23, 2021
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Sara Barnard writes some of the most relatable stories I’ve ever read. The struggles her characters face are struggles that I almost always identify with and that is definitely the case with her new novel, Destination Anywhere. Destination Anywhere follows Peyton King, a seventeen-year-old college student who has struggled her entire life to make friends. As if having no friends wasn’t bad enough, she was also the target of relentless bullying for most of her school career. Desperate to make friends once she arrives at college, she falls in with the wrong crowd and ends up in a world of trouble. Between that and the fact that she’s miserable at college because her parents are forcing her to study something she’s not interested in, Peyton takes matters into her own hands. She packs a bag and her sketchbook, buys a one-way plane ticket from England to Canada, and sets out to find herself and her own path in life.
Peyton’s journey is presented in present day chapters, alternated with chapters from her past, and I have to say that those past chapters were truly heartbreaking. I felt so bad for her as I was reading the feelings of self-doubt that Peyton expresses as she is rejected by classmate after classmate and then bullied by them on top of it. Those thoughts of “What is wrong with me?” or when she does finally find a potential friend and then overthinking it to the point where she’s trying too hard and makes things awkward. While I always had a core group of friends when I was in school, I was painfully shy and could relate to some of Peyton’s inner monologue.
While those past chapters were somewhat painful to read, however, the present chapters were pretty amazing. I loved watching Peyton’s confidence start to grow as she learned from past mistakes and challenged herself to get out there, pursue her passion, and find like-minded people. I was especially impressed with the way she stands her ground when it comes to her parents. That can be a hard thing to do.
I don’t want to give away any details of Peyton’s journey, but one of the highlights of her trip for me was the friend group she meets when she checks in to the hostel in Canada. It’s a group of young travelers from all around the globe and they practically adopt her as their little sister and make it their mission to ensure she gets the most out of her trip and finds whatever it is she’s looking for. Their mission even turns into a road trip at one point and I’m all about a good road trip, so I especially loved those adventures and of course the gorgeous Canadian scenery.
Destination Anywhere is a lovely and heartwarming story about finding yourself and about finding your people. It’s one of those wonderful reads that engaged all of my emotions. I went from being heartbroken for Peyton to absolutely elated for her, and pretty much everything in between. And don’t even get me started on the ending, which left me crying happy tears. Such an all around satisfying read. 4.5 STARS
My heart is already breaking for Peyton, but I’m glad to see that it seems like this story has a happy ending!
I felt so bad for her. Couldn’t even believe her teachers, etc. would let her constantly be bullied like that.
These both sound good but Destination Anywhere really speaks to me, I’d love to read it!
Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy recently posted…The Friday Face-Off: Serpentine
If you do, I hope you enjoy it. I’ve had such good luck with Barnard’s books.
Yay for some great books. I do want to read The Initial Insult – I love the author and want to read more from her, and I’m a big Poe fan. Thanks for the warning about the family pet. I don’t see those warnings are spoilers because that can be really traumatic for some people to read.
ShootingStarsMag recently posted…Keep It Together: Plan Your Reading Life With Etsy
I hope you enjoy The Initial Insult!
You’ve sold me on both of these books! I hope you have a great weekend. 😀
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I want a reunion book for Destination Anywhere. I would love to spend more time with that fabulous group
Sam@wlabb recently posted…Discussion: Required Reading
A reunion book would be perfect! I really loved the whole group from the hostel.
I love that Poe story, and I’ve read a few Mindy McGinnis books and liked them. The Initial Insult sounds perfect for me. I’m glad you enjoyed both of these books!
Aj @ Read All The Things! recently posted…Can’t Wait Wednesday: More February 2021 Book Releases
I’ve had good luck with McGinnis’ books. I like the way she’s not afraid to go dark and stay dark the entire story.
Two superb reviews, Suzanne – and what a contrast! Destination Anywhere is the one that snags my interest the most, as I expect it’s the one we can all most relate to (I hope!). And Peyton sounds like a fabulous protagonist. Thank you for sharing!
Yes, Destination Anywhere is definitely the one that spoke to me the most. I also loved the more optimistic turn the story took as soon as Peyton started to make friends.
The Initial insult is the kind of twisty goodness that is right up my alley! And Destination anywhere sounds wonderfully heartwarming — it sounds like Barnard has a deft touch with writing relatable characters.
The Initial Insult is definitely one I’d recommend if you enjoy dark reads and especially if you enjoy revenge stories.
Both sounds like great reads.. and they both have great covers as well.
Hena Tayeb recently posted…Recent Reads
I love the covers too. 🙂
My heart hurts for Peyton just reading your review. This sounds like a girl that absolutely needs to find “her people.”
Tanya @ Girl Plus Books recently posted…The Sunday Post #239 | February 21, 2021
Yes, definitely! I couldn’t believe how cruel kids were to her for no apparent reason.