“Feminist, man-hating filth.” This is the cover quote that prompted me to read Foul Is Fair. Any book that is described in this way is one I should be reading, right?
*Trigger/ content warnings: rape, sexual assault, violence, murder. Click here to view all content notes for Foul Is Fair
Foul Is Fair is a contemporary Young Adult novel about a girl who swears vengeance after she is drugged and raped by four boys. On the night of her 16th birthday, Jade and her best friends crash the party of a boy who attends another school. Unfortunately, Jade’s night takes a dreadful turn which leads to her plotting murderous revenge. This novel is a feminist retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
The book’s prose is cutting and sharp while being dramatic and poetic in places. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I would finish this book because the writing almost felt jarring. Once I’d read around 20% of it, I felt like it’d be worth my time so I carried on reading. And I’m glad I did.
“I am a queen in a golden crown and a dress the colour of blood, holding death in my hands. I am everything the girl in the white-sheets room wanted.”
Jade Khanjara, Foul Is Fair
For the most part, I liked Jade as a character. Her sense of vengeance and justice never falters throughout the book. She is bold, smart, strong-willed and utterly determined to see her plans through till the very end. She won’t stop or rest until all of those responsible for what happened to her are dead. When Elle goes to the hospital with her mother, she meets with a councillor against her wishes. The councillor tells Jade that there’s no wrong way to be a victim, but Jade is no victim, nor is she a survivor. When the stunned councillor asks Jade what [word] she would prefer, she finally says, “avenger” after insisting that the boys didn’t turn her into anything she wasn’t before.
The characters in this book, including Jade, are mostly privileged rich kids. Jade’s rapists, aka the “golden boys”, are obnoxious, arrogant, entitled and powerful. They are seriously lacking in decency and often displayed sociopathic tendencies. Foul Is Fair is at its core, a revenge story, but it also highlights how endemic rape culture is in society. Jade’s wrath isn’t only directed at those who brutally assaulted and violated her. She also goes after people who did nothing to stop it. Why should their complicity go unpunished? The “golden boys” are known to have drugged and raped several other girls. They do this regularly and it’s largely accepted and unchallenged by those around them. Jade seems to be the only one who cares. Jade vows to be the last girl they ever do that to and I love that about her. I couldn’t stand the golden boys (bar one of them) and grinned with glee when they inevitably got what they deserved.
“Every teenage girl thinks she and her friends are the mean girls, the ice queens, the wicked witches, but Jenny and Summer and Mads and me – we’re what they wish they were.
Jade Khanjara, Foul Is Fair
My favourite thing about the book is Jade’s relationship with her friends. Their impenetrable bond is beautiful. From the get-go, Jade’s friends are there for her and are completely supportive of her plans for revenge. They promise to help Jade destroy the golden boys. Anything Jade wants or needs to execute her plan, they will take care of it. While their friendship is tested from time to time, their sisterhood grows stronger throughout the book.
I’m so happy I gave this book a chance. The plot alone left me reeling and Jade is a rather special character. I understand the comparisons between Foul Is Fair and films like Kill Bill and Cruel Intentions. It also gave me Mean Girls and Killing Eve vibes. It’d be cool to see it adapted for the screen one day. If you’re after a dark, twisted, unapologetic, over-the-top and undeniably satisfying read, Foul Is Fair by Hannah Capin should be at the top of your reading list.
My rating: 8/10
Many thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for providing me with an advance digital copy in exchange for an honest review.