Friday, August 5, 2016

The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn

The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn

4.5 stars

Arman is a young man struggling with a lot of inner turmoil. He deals with anxiety, depression, and self-loathing among other things. His story starts when he meets Beau, an enigmatic man who offers the sanctity of a compound dedicated to healing. This is Arman’s chance to change… to evolve…Everything begins to unravel around Arman and instead of facing the positive changes he hopes to encounter he comes face to face with a smaller evil within the compound. I honestly have no clue what I just read and this seems to be the case with most readers. I’m not unsatisfied, but befuddled. I honestly didn’t know what was going on and felt just as confused as Arman for the majority of the novel and by the end I spoke the coveted words of the marking of a good psychological novel, “What the fuck?” Make no mistake this novel is incredibly immersed in psychology. In fact, this book has no plot but offers a character study. This review may be spoilery because I’m trying to figure out what I just read and the best way to understand the unexplainable is to write about until it makes sense.

Kuehn is definitely a brilliant writer, maybe more so than some of the big psychological writers that are popping up right now. Her writing is quiet and her characters are frantic, unreliable, and induced with panic that leaves the pace to fill all over the place when there is nothing happening. I love cult novels; I find them incredibly fascinating and I’ve always wondered what drives people into the arms of another individual who offers promise, safety, and acceptance away from our world. Kuehn quietly shows us exactly how this process occurs. The novel opens up with a second (but also switches to third?) person POV- this person feels disjointed, cruel, manipulative, calculating- it’s incredibly unsettling how he targets those around them in continuous chapters to submit to his ideals and sway. It’s creepy and incredibly well done (especially after the last chapter). Speaking of the last chapter- what the actual fuck? How brilliant was that?! Arman being the calculating recruit. It’s incredibly interesting to see his transformation from frantic, unstable child to persuasive leader and recruit of an occult community. Absolutely fascinating and it’s probably why I like this novel so much!

Whimsical Writing Scale: 4.75

Arman is a very overwhelming character to read about. He’s being sucked into this web. We learn only what Arman is aware of and he knows nothing then we know nothing. There’s nothing to like about Arman, he’s an underdog because he essentially ruins situations for himself and it’s incredibly sad to see how much of a lost soul he is. Until the very end, because like what the actual fuck? Biggest character development plot twist and it was happening the whole time.

"It's a philosophical principle that states an immoral act can sometimes be considered moral if the greater good outweighs the smaller evil."
There are also a lot of characters Kira and Dale (two outsiders who Arman travels with into the compound), the cook (whose name we learn at the end) that needs to have sex with Arman all the time, Dr. Gary, Daniel, and Mari (who all play intricate parts to the compound and its secrets, and Beau- who is the leader of the compound and is a presence even when he isn’t around. I also called that Beau was grooming Arman for something!

Character Scale: 4.5

I honestly have no clue exactly what happened in this novel, but I think that’s the strong defining factor of this book. I’m definitely recommending it to anyone who loves psychological thrillers, cults, and crazy characters because this book is jammed with these things.

Plotastic Scale: 4.25

Cover Thoughts: Is this a chameleon? If so, damn this cover is symbolic. Chameleons blend to match those around them and the recruiters of these cults blend in to appeal to everyday people and then transition into their cult presence at the compounds. Awesome cover!

Thank you, First Reads, Penguin, and Dutton for allowing me to read this novel in exchange for an honest review!

Have you read The Smaller Evil? If so what do think about  it or do you plan to read it? Let me know down below in the comments!


  1. I liked all her other books but this one was a DNF for me :-(

    1. I'm so sad to hear that! It's definitely not a book that picks up at the beginning, but if you ever feel interested again I definitely recommend giving it another shot!

  2. I liked all her other books but this one was a DNF for me :-(