The Last Laugh (The Initial Insult, #2)The Last Laugh by Mindy McGinnis
My rating: 5/5 cats
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fulfilling my 2022 vow to read more YA/finish series i have started and left unfinished

in my review of The Initial Insult, i said, “before i read this i was excited to see there was already a follow-up planned, but now that i’ve finished it, i’m apprehensive.”

that was me being a polite little milquetoast. i wasn’t apprehensive, friends. i was PISSED.

the ending of The Initial Insult was perfect: unexpected, shocking, ballsy—not just “for a YA book,” but for ANYTHING, and the fact that it wasn’t going to stand as written—an upraised middle finger to happy endings everywhere…it felt like a betrayal of that boldness.

i was leery that a second book might soften the blow of it, but i should have trusted in her enough by now, after reading four of her books; i should have understood that ‘softening’ just isn’t her thing. i mean:

You can only swallow so much of your own blood before it turns your gut black, tinting everything inside you darkly.

she’s not interested in going easy on her readers, and The Last Laugh is just as bold and brutal as the first—my god, the maggots. the spray paint. this is not an “everything’s gonna be okay” palliation of what happened during our first trip to amontillado, ohio. everything’s not going to be okay.

Everything is going to be fucking awesome.

so mea culpa. mea maxima culpa. i will not doubt her again.

the poe references in The Initial Insult were laid on so thick it was almost obscenely referential, yet somehow she found more gold to mine for this one: the tell-tale heart-shaped best-friend necklaces. the orangutan doing her rue morgue thing. digging deep into poe’s catalog to dust off the name “ada lalage.” it’s so saturated with winks and allusions that it would come off as silly if there weren’t so many horrific things happening in the meat of the story, but no one’s laughing at The Last Laugh. not for long, anyway.

it is impossible to talk about this book without bringing The Initial Insult into the discussion, and BOTH of them are impossible to plot-talk without sounding unhinged. although i don’t recommend reading this sequel without first reading The Initial Insult, mcginnis does such a great job reminding you of the first book’s…events, one could get away with only reading this one. but don’t. that first one’s a whirlwind journey, equal parts brutal and bananas.

this is a fierce, clawed-and-toothed follow-up and i loved every minute of it—layer upon layer upon explosive layer. tress is a master class in endurance and perseverance; the antiheroine you root for despite her/because of her flaws and simmering savagery.

Sloppy work gets you killed around wild animals, and my good habits extend to when I’m the danger in the room.

i loved this book, and i am deeply grateful to mindy mcginnis for giving me something so wonderfully distracting to read while i was flattened by food poisoning that it took my mind off how lousy i was feeling for a few too-short hours.

i will never doubt her again.


review to come, but for now just WOW.

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