Kate’s Review: “This Delicious Death”

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Book: “This Delicious Death” by Kayla Cottingham

Publishing Info: Sourcebooks Fire, April 2023

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from the publisher.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Jennifer’s Body fans will clamor for this new sapphic horror standalone from New York Times bestselling author Kayla Cottingham.

Three years ago, the melting of arctic permafrost released a pathogen of unknown origin into the atmosphere, causing a small percentage of people to undergo a transformation that became known as the Hollowing. Those impacted slowly became intolerant to normal food and were only able to gain sustenance by consuming the flesh of other human beings. Those who went without flesh quickly became feral, turning on their friends and family. However, scientists were able to create a synthetic version of human meat that would satisfy the hunger of those impacted by the Hollowing. As a result, humanity slowly began to return to normal, albeit with lasting fear and distrust for the people they’d pejoratively dubbed ghouls.

Zoey, Celeste, Valeria, and Jasmine are all ghouls living in Southern California. As a last hurrah before their graduation they decided to attend a musical festival in the desert. They have a cooler filled with hard seltzers and SynFlesh and are ready to party.

But on the first night of the festival Val goes feral, and ends up killing and eating a boy. As other festival guests start disappearing around them the girls soon discover someone is drugging ghouls and making them feral. And if they can’t figure out how to stop it, and soon, no one at the festival is safe.

Review: Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for sending me an ARC of this novel!

I read Kayla Cottingham’s debut novel “My Dearest Darkest” last year and enjoyed it due to the tone and the characters. I was also lucky enough to be able to say hello during ALAAC 2022, and she was super awesome and gracious over my awkward fangirling. So when I was offered a copy of her newest horror novel “This Delicious Death”, I jumped at the chance. Partially because I really wanted to see what she followed her debut up with. But also because when I saw that it was about cannibal monster girls going to a music festival, I was fully invested and on board.

Another example of a book that teenage Kate would have been so into. (source)

This was just such a fun read from start to finish. I really liked all of the characters, especially the core friend group of Zoe, Celeste, Jasmine, and Valeria, and I liked the ‘zombie’ (if that’s even the right word) mythos that Cottingham has created for the story. In terms of the characters, our core four feel like a pretty realistic and typical group of teenage girls with the usual insecurities and ride or die friend dynamics, just with a bit of a flesh eating twist to round it all out. While I wasn’t super invested in the will they or won’t they dynamic of Zoe and Celeste, I did like them a lot as friends and really liked how all of these girls have seen some serious shit and are still processing, all while relying on each other. You get to see flashbacks to when all of them were first infected with the Hollowing illness that transformed them into ‘ghouls’ that now can only live on human flesh (synthetically produced now, however), and how they all dealt with that change, that trauma, and how they all came together as friends who are now close as close can be. I loved their banter and their humor, and I loved as they band together to help protect Valeria after she goes feral and kills someone, and how they want to solve what is happening. The gal pal flesh eating teenage gumshoe vibe REALLY worked for me, and you throw that into a conspiracy whodunnit with the backdrop of a Coachella-esque music festival and you have a really, REALLY unique and fun story that will appeal to teens and adults alike. And along with all that, I really really liked all of the representation this book had, with trans characters, lesbian and bisexual characters, characters from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

And now the horror. The references to “Jennifer’s Body” in the description of this book are pretty on point both in theme and tone, but I also felt like we got some “Left 4 Dead” elements with the descriptions of the way that the ‘ghouls’ look (to me, very much like The Witch in those games. If you know, you know!). I really liked how Cottingham thought out of how The Hollowing pandemic and fall out would have worked, from the way information would have spread to how the population would have reacted to how it would have adapted to try and contain it/cure those who were turned into ‘ghouls’. We get sprinkles here and there of outside perspectives beyond our main character flashbacks, and it fills in some of the blanks with a nice blend of genuinely unsettling bits as well as some fun tongue in cheek/cynical moments that would fit right in in a Verhoeven film. Cottingham doesn’t hold back on the gore and body horror elements either, with full on descriptions of gnarly transformations, some cannibalism, and moments so bloody you feel a bit like you’re in a literary splash zone a la “Evil Dead: The Musical”. It really is a blast.

“This Delicious Death” is the perfect horror read for the time of year we are in, with vacations and road trips abound. It makes it all the more perfect given that we are still trying to navigate a pandemic, albeit a potentially waning one, and the messiness that can come with the aftermath. Recommended reading to be sure.

Rating 9: A fun and gory body horror meets girl’s road trip tale, “This Delicious Death” is a must read horror novel for all your summer vacation plans!

Reader’s Advisory:

“This Delicious Death” is included on the Goodreads lists “Queer Horror”, and “Cannibal Books”.

4 thoughts on “Kate’s Review: “This Delicious Death””

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