Review + Q&A: “Foul is Fair” by Hannah Capin

42595554Title: Foul is Fair
Author: Hannah Capin
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Content warning: Sexual assault, rape, physical violence, murder, suicide, transphobic bullying
(For a more comprehensive list of CWs please visit the author’s site.)
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books


ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Dark and gritty, Hannah Capin tells a tale of burning rage and bloody vengeance in her sophomore offering Foul is Fair.

Elle and her friends Mads, Jenney, 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 Elle’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Elle as their next target.

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.

Revenge and murder, these two words seem to always draw my attention, and it’s those same words that brought me to this book.

Foul is Fair is vicious, bloody and unapologetically angry. Capin channels the Bard’s Macbeth putting her own twists to it supplanting power-grabbing, murderous Scottish nobles and prophesying witches with entitled rich kids from an elite prep school and a group of knife-sharp girls bonded by their pact of vengeance.

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This book doesn’t hold anything back but consider yourselves forewarned: a good chunk of what happens in this book is implausible so suspend your disbelief, leave it at the doorstep before delving in.

This book was just impossible to put down. The story is fast-paced; the writing is crisp and sharp. Capin tackles rape culture and privilege head on, no frills, no social commentary buried in complex prose. Manipulative, diabolic, and so full of dark, deadly secrets, her characters in this story are not ones you usually see or even want to root for. These characters are shallowly drawn, almost like a caricature – something that usually turns me off but for this story, it works.

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It may not be for everyone, Foul is Fair is grim, even more grim than I thought it would be. At several points, the story could be too much that’s it’s hard to continue pushing back your disbelief, but there is certainly something freeing reading something that puts into words some of the deepest and darkest thoughts you’ve had. If you’ve enjoyed Sadie (Courtney Summers,) The Female of the Species (Mindy McGinnis,) and Sawkill Girls (Claire Legrand,) this book is for you.


Though it was tough at times, I enjoyed reading Foul is Fair. It was filled to the brim with heedless, reckless rage, which was just so deliciously gratifying.  So, I’m happy to have a chance to ask Hannah Capin a few short questions about her new book.

What inspired you to write Foul is Fair?

For a very long time, I’ve wanted to write a story that subverts the expected narrative of a sexual assault survivor. FOUL IS FAIR centers a girl who seizes her power back by any means necessary. She isn’t a “good girl,” she doesn’t do what she “should” do, and she absolutely never apologizes.

What would you like readers to take away after finishing this book?

That’s up to the reader! Books should *make* you think, not tell you *what* to think.

In 2 GIFs or emojis, sum up Foul is Fair.

about the authorHannah Capin

HANNAH CAPIN is the author of Foul is Fair and The Dead Queens Club, a feminist retelling of the wives of Henry VIII. When she isn’t writing, she can be found singing, sailing, or pulling marathon gossip sessions with her girl squad. She lives in Tidewater, Virginia.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads






Special thanks go out to Meghan Harrington and Wednesday Books for inviting me to this tour and giving me the chance to read Foul is Fair in advance.

First Line Fridays: “Foul is Fair” by Hannah Capin

First Line Fridays (feature photo)

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature hosted by Hoarding Books.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done FLL and I missed it dearly. While I can’t promise to do this more regularly, I will endeavor to try; it’s a new year, a new decade after all. I think it will also help me be accountable for the monthly reading list I created for myself (more about that in my 2019 recap post, which I’ll try to write this weekend.)

Anyway, today I’m going to be featuring a book that mashes up MacbethCruel Intentions and Kill Bill. Hannah Capin’s second book, Foul is Fair tackles rape culture and violence. It centers on Elle/Jade and her friends, and their plot to take revenge on the boys who raped her.


Sweet sixteen is when the claws come out.

We’re all flash tonight. Jenny and Summer and Mads and me. Vodka and heels we could never quite walk in before, but tonight we can. short skirts – the shortest. Glitter and highlight. Matte and shine. Long hair and whitest-white teeth.

I’ve never been blond before but tonight my hair is platinum. Mads bleached it too fast but I don’t care because tonight’s the only night that matters. and my eyes are jade-green tonight instead of brown, and Summer swears the contacts Jenny bought are going to melt into my eyes and I’ll never see again, but I don’t care about that either.

Tonight I’m sixteen.

I started this book late December, but, with the hecticness and stress of the holidays, I had to put it down. I am back at it and am about 70% through. This one is just as dark and gritty as it promised, and I’m both excited and afraid of how Jade’s story ends.

Foul is Fair releases February 18.


Have you read this book? What are you reading? Let’s chat!



Book Thoughts: Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak” and Rape

I can no longer count the number of times I’ve read Laurie Halse Anderson‘s Speak. It’s easily one of the most abused books on my shelves – page corners folded to mark favorite parts, quotes and dialogues highlighted so they’re easier to find, yellowing paper, old book smell – I almost had it memorized but that still doesn’t stop me from re-reading it over and over and over again.

More than being one of the most beaten books, it’s also one of the most important ones I own.

book cover

It was Anderson’s protagonist that got me reading, Melinda Sordino, at first. She’s awkward, a misfit and she just wants to get out of high school alive. It was very easy for me to feel and relate to Melinda because her voice in the story was so clear and also at that time when I first read Speak I was sort of going through the same things she went through. Kids can be mean to their fellow youngsters, if you know what I mean.

Eventually, as I got older and started losing count of the number of re-reads I’ve given the book, I found that more than Melinda  it was Speak’s topic that pushed me to turn the pages. It was a sensitive topic, yes, but sadly it’s a part of all of our reality.


It’s sick. It’s a painful truth, a hard pill to swallow. But it happens even if we don’t want to talk about it. It happens more often than we’d like to imagine. All the reports we hear on TV about, that doesn’t even bring the real numbers up, no, not even by a quarter, and it angers me.

I come from a family composed mostly of women – three sisters then my mom – really, my dad is the only guy in our household. Growing up, our parents have greatly been protective of us; we’ve always been reminded that while there are still many good people out there, there’s also a number who carry bad intentions within their hearts and that we’re more at risk because we’re girls. Still, no matter how careful you are, bad things, or in my more normal verbal language, shit happens and happen it did.

A couple of years ago when she was a high school freshman, my youngest sister became a victim of attempted rape. Luckily, there were people passing by the place where the perp brought her and she was rescued. The pervert was caught but her paid bail and is now again free.

What I wouldn’t give to get my hands on him and make sure he won’t ever get another chance to do what he almost did to my sister.

My sister clammed up after that incident. She went through her days doing what she was supposed to but she became unnervingly quiet. It took months before things went back to normal, well, as normal as they could get anyway. Until now there would still be times when she’d be totally quiet.

The bruises, the cuts may heal but the psychological trauma lingers long after the last scabs have flaked off. For many rape victims, it takes a lifetime to deal with what happened to them.

Rape is a highly under-reported crime. According to estimates, for every 4 to 10 rapes, only 1 incidence is reported. This gross under-reporting is largely attributed to the victim’s feelings of shame and guilt, their fear of more injury and the belief that the legal system won’t be able to help them. Victims of rape can be of any age: they can be as young as 15 months old and as old as 82 but the highest incidence rate is in girls and women aged 16 to 24.

And here’s even more disturbing findings about rape. In the recently published United Nations quantitative study titled “Why Do Some Men Use Violence Against Women and How Can We Prevent It?” researchers found out the following: (1) that rape of an intimate partner (girlfriend, wife, common law wife) was more common that non-partner rape in most sites of the study; (2) rape perpetration started early in life: (3) rape was most commonly motivated by a sense of sexual entitlement (with many of the respondents believing that they have the right to sex regardless of consent); and (4) that the majority of rape perpetrators did not experience any legal consequences. The study was conducted in 6 countries from the Asia and the Pacific region. It may not be a worldwide research but it’s the largest of its kind dealing with this particular subject, that is men and their use of violence, and that has to count.

Speak has been in print since 1999. It was relevant then and now, 14 years since its release, it remains to be, maybe even more.

Though its been challenged and banned repeatedly over its whole publication lifetime, it’s books like Speak, books that deal with subjects that are often too difficult to talk about that get to you. These things happen in real life, and these books could save you – tell you you’re not alone, that there are others out there who went through similar stuff and survived, encourage them to stand up and speak out.

There are other Melindas out there, more than we could ever imagine, more than we would ever know. No matter how much we deny it, rape exists and it victimazes millions of men and women out there. It’s plain wrong and it must be stopped.

Now here’s my call for action.

We’re always told to speak out, stand up for what we think is right, and while those are noble and worthy work, we seem to be forgetting something. We’re putting too much emphasis on speaking out but not enough on listening. Let’s all be listeners and speakers; be ears and mouthpieces. Balance things out, I think that’s what we need. We’ll never know when we’ll be helping someone who so desperately needs to be heard.

You’ll never know, it could also work the other way around.

Here are some resources:

Philippine Commission on Women

Women’s Crisis Center Directory

United Nations Development Fund for Women – Philippines

Book Thoughts: Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak” and Melinda Sordino’s Five Stages of Speaking Out

For the record, I am a serial re-reader. I’m the kind who, if a story tugs on my reader heartstrings, would read a book over and over and over again without ever tiring of the plot lines and the characters.

There, now that’s out of the way, here’s another fact. I love Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. I can no longer count the number of re-reads I’ve given it. I love the novel’s protagonist, Melinda Sordino, and out of that love (and my inherent compulsion for re-reading books and making sense out of almost everything), this post is born. Ta-da! *falling colorful confetti and glitters*

book cover

But seriously now, Melinda went through such a traumatic experience. It’s something no person should ever go through. But the reality of the world we live in contradicts our want of being safe from harm, and thus the painful truth – that some people hurt other people.

Though Melinda dealt with what happened to her with much courage, it wasn’t at all “all” that easy. It took her time, she went through stages, painful ones. It’s like the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – she went from deciding not to speak to coming to terms with what happened to her to finally speaking out. It took Melinda time to talk about being raped. That’s what speaking out does, it can be tough especially when you feel like no one will listen to you. This world we’re living in puts too much emphasis on speaking out and not enough on listening.

Alright, well, enough about me and what I think. Let me re-focus the spotlight on Melinda.

– Melinda Sordino’s Five Stages of Speaking Out –

Denial aka Deciding not to Speak:

“It is easier not to say anything. Shut your trap, button your lip, can it. All that crap you hear on TV about communication and expressing feelings is a lie. Nobody really wants to hear what you have to say.”

Anger aka Refusing to Speak:

“The suffragettes fought for the right to speak. They were attacked, arrested, and thrown in jail for daring to do what they wanted. Like they were, I am willing to stand up for what I believe. No one should be forced to give speeches. I choose to stay silent.”

“Lawyers on TV always tell their clients not to say anything. The cops say that thing: ‘Anything you say will be used against you.’ Self-incrimination. I looked it up. Three-point vocab word. So why does everyone makes such a big hairy deal about me not talking? Maybe I don’t want to incriminate myself. Maybe I don’t like the sound of my voice. Maybe I don’t have anything to say.”


Bargaining aka Coming to Terms:

“Was I raped?

Oprah: “Let’s explore that. You said no. He covered your mouth with his hand. You were thirteen years old. It doesn’t matter that you were drunk. Honey, you were raped. What a horrible, horrible thing for you to live though. Didn’t you ever think of telling anyone? You can’t keep this inside forever. Can someone get her a tissue?”

Sally Jessy: “I want this boy held responsible. He is to blame for this attack. You do know it was an attack, don’t you? It was not your fault. I want you to listen to me, listen to me, listen to me. It was not your fault. This boy is an animal.”

Jerry: “Was it love? No. Was it lust? No. Was it tenderness, sweetness, the First Time they talk about in magazines? No, no, no, no, no! Speak up, Meatilda, ah, Melinda, I can’t hear you!”

My head is killing me, my throat is killing me, my stomach bubbles with toxic waste. I just want to sleep. A coma would be nice. Or amnesia. Anything, just to get rid of this, these thoughts, whispers in my mind. Did he rape my head, too?”

Depression/Caving In:

“I shouldn’t have raked anything. Look what I started. I shouldn’t have tried something new. I should have stayed in the house. Watched cartoons with a double-sized bowl of Cheerios. Should have stayed in my room. Stayed in my head.”

Acceptance aka Speaking Out:

“I think about lying down. No, that would not do. I crouch by the trunk, my fingers stroking the bark, seeking a Braille code, a clue, a message on how to come back to life after my long undersnow dormancy. I have survived. I am here. Confused, screwed up, but here. So, how can I find my way? Is there a chain saw of the soul, an ax I can take to my memories or fears! I dig my fingers into the dirt and squeeze. A small, clean part of me waits to warm and burst through the surface. Some quiet Melindagirl I haven’t seen in months. That is the seed I will care for.”

“IT happened. There is no avoiding it, no forgetting. No running away, or flying, or burying, or hiding. Andy Evans raped me in August when I was drunk and too young to know what was happening. It wasn’t my fault. He hurt me. It wasn’t my fault. And I’m not going to let it kill me. I can grow.”

It may have took Melinda some time but eventually she speaks out and she finds people who want to listen to her. Still, there may be other Melindas out there who may not be as lucky to have willing, listening ears for them. There could still be other victims out there who can’t speak out.

I think it’s high time for all of us to be listeners and not just speakers.

P.S. Expect that this is not the last time you’ll hear from me about Speak.

P.P.S. If you have the time, go watch the movie adaptation of this book. It’s good. =)

P.P.P.S. That’s a 13-year old Kristen Stewart playing Melinda Sordino by the way.