The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn



Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Pages: 248

Published August 2nd 2016 by Dutton Books for Young Readers

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Sometimes the greater good requires the smaller evil.

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.


“You only fear what you believe will kill you, never what will.”When it comes to this genre – suspense, mystery, thriller – I usually don’t pick up these books. I’m one of those that usually guesses the plot before it even hits the middle and I ruin the movie for myself. That was not the case with this book AT ALL. Just when you think you know what is happening, you really have no clue because this book makes you question everything you had thought you may have been thinking, or were you thinking it at all?

Arman is an anxiety ridden paranoid seventeen-year-old that is sought out by a man named Beau and he convinces him to join his new camp, a retreat of sorts for those who need to be inoculated against the sickness of society. So he pairs up with two other teens, one girl he knew from school and the other he didn’t know. They begin their journey to the retreat and immediately are immersed into a cult-like place.

The practices are strange. Beliefs strange. Antics strange. This entire book is bizarre. Just as the idea began to settle in my brain it switched and I had no idea what was going on. I’ve never read any of Stephanie Kuehn’s work, but it’s truly gripping. I felt engaged the entire book and I wanted to know, I just wanted to know and wanted answers which were never really presented which I think would have frustrated me if I had any knowledge of what actually took place.

Mind blown.

What book threw you for the biggest loop? Share below.


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