Cottingham, Kayla. This Delicious Death. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Fire, 2023.
ISBN-13: 978-1728236445 | $11.99 USD | 304 pages | YA Horror
From the New York Times bestselling author of My Dearest Darkest comes another incredible sapphic horror. When four best friends with a hunger for human flesh attend a music festival in the desert they discover a murderous plot to expose and vilify the girls and everyone like them. This summer is going to get gory.
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.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own.
This Delicious Death is Kayla Cottingham’s second book, and once again it leans into the fun sapphic horror vibes. It’s delightfully campy and gory in equal measure, with a dark twist on the music festival setting (obligatory Fyre Fest jabs included). And while it is first and foremost a fun story, I love that it also touches on deeper themes, like living day-to-day during a pandemic and the fight for acceptance for LGBTQ+ people, with queer and trand youth being particularly vulnerable in the face of bigotry.
I liked the approach of having flashbacks and media excerpts that help flesh (hehe) out the backstory and what happened during the Hollowing itself, while the bulk of the main narrative takes place in the aftermath. It makes for an engaging read, and I like how the two complement and inform each other. It particularly gives insight into prior lives of the main characters, prior to becoming ghouls, which is quite moving.
Each of the girls is a distinct character, and I really liked each of them. Zoey is the main POV character for the present day, and I really liked getting insight into the dynamics between her and the other three, and how they’ve maintained their friendship even amidst such catastrophic change, and continue to do so amid further challenges. And while not primarily a romance, there’ a romantic relationship that grows throughout that is rather sweet.
This is a (literally) bloody good book, and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA sapphic horror.
CWs: alcohol consumption by minors, anxiety disorders (mentioned), blood and gore, body horror, cannibalism, captivity and confinement, dead bodies and body parts, deadnaming (deadname not stated), death of a grandparent and sibling, drugging, drug use (mentioned), fire, grief and loss, gun violence, intrusive thoughts, murder, needles and syringes, nightmares, parental neglect, pandemic (fictional disease), scars, sexism, suicidal ideation (implied), transphobia (mentioned)
Kayla Cottingham (she/they) is a YA author and librarian. Her first book, My Dearest Darkest, was a New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller. Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Kayla lives in Boston where she loves to go hiking in the woods, play RPGs, and snuggle on the couch with her ridiculously large black cat, Squid.
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