Monday, August 8, 2016

The Smaller Evil - Where Mass Confusion Abounds

TITLE: The Smaller Evil
AUTHOR: Stephanie Kuehn
PUBLISHER: Dutton Books for Young Readers
PUBLISHING DATE: August 2, 2016

FROM GOODREADS: 17-year-old Arman Dukoff is struggling with severe anxiety and a history of self-loathing when he arrives at an expensive self-help retreat in the remote hills of Big Sur. He’s taken a huge risk—and two-thousand dollars from his meth-head stepfather—for a chance to "evolve," as Beau, the retreat leader, says.

Beau is complicated. A father figure? A cult leader? A con man? Arman's not sure, but more than anyone he's ever met, Beau makes Arman feel something other than what he usually feels—worthless.

The retreat compound is secluded in coastal California mountains among towering redwoods, and when the iron gates close behind him, Arman believes for a moment that he can get better. But the program is a blur of jargon, bizarre rituals, and incomprehensible encounters with a beautiful girl. Arman is certain he's failing everything. But Beau disagrees; he thinks Arman has a bright future—though he never says at what.

And then, in an instant Arman can't believe or totally recall, Beau is gone. Suicide? Or murder? Arman was the only witness and now the compound is getting tense. And maybe dangerous.

As the mysteries and paradoxes multiply and the hints become accusations, Arman must rely on the person he's always trusted the least: himself.

MY THOUGHTS: It's been quite a while since a book has left me so confused so kudos to Kuehn for leaving that mark. I really don't know how to even review this book but I'm going to try my best. The Smaller Evil centers around Arman, a trouble teen who suffers from at the least anxiety attacks and OCD and at the most, a whole lot more I may never figure out. Arman hates his father, who is an ex-inmate as well as his mother AND his step-father, who is a drug dealer. In fact, because poor Arman has no support system, he ends up meeting Beau (hippie? cult leader? druggie?) who recruits him to attend his enlightenment camp. So Arman steals over $2000 from his step-father, meets up with 2 other troubled teens, and they set out to learn all Beau has to offer. There's only one big problem...Beau ends up dead? or perhaps missing? and only Arman holds the answers....or does he? Or does other people know? See the problem here? WAAAAYYYY too many question marks considering I really am not trying to be spoiler-free - I just have no freakin' clue!

So there are good things about this book. While I really can't explain why, this book compelled me to keep on reading to find out what happens to Arman and his crew. I really found Kuehn's writing well done and the books flowed smoothly. In fact, even though I didn't really like it at all, I finished it in 2 days and never once considered DNF'ing it. That has to say something about the writing style. Also, I really wanted to know what was going on so I had an incentive to complete it. Just let me say now though that I STILL want to know what's going on so if anyone has any clue, please message me and I will be glad to chat. I think there is probably some deep underlying meaning to this book, but it's probably beyond me at this point to figure out what it is. From what I gather, it's ok to screw with people, confuse them and take advantage of them because the greater good outweighs the smaller evil. (Not that I agree with that, that's just what I got out of it).

I don't know who to recommend this book to but if you like weird, hey, give it a go! It is well written and I believe Kuehn has a large following so I know there are tons of people out there dying to read The Smaller Evil. I'm sure lots of people will enjoy it, but I'm also pretty confident that lots of people will end up being confused.

I was provided an ARC of this book from the Penguin First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.



  1. Yep, sounds like a Stephanie Kuehn book! I've read two of her books and I really enjoyed them. Or at least I was happily confused by them, lol. I'm not sure there is a deeper meaning, but I think she does let the reader come to their own conclusion about what happened/what the book is actually about. I do want to read this at some point!

  2. Well, that sounds like an interesting book but at the same time not sure if I would want to read it. Though I am a bit curious

  3. Hmm... interesting, but I'm not sure it's for me. Great review!