Full Brutal by Kristopher Triana, narrated by Dani George

If you’ve ever asked yourself what American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman would be like if he were a teenage girl living in the current age as opposed to Wall Street of the 1980s, Full Brutal by Kristopher Triana is the book for you. I’m only joking a little bit with that introduction because–much like Ellis’s most popular character–Kim is pretty, popular, and superficially passing as being not only normal but successful and even a role model of sorts. This is, of course, a facade.
As the story unfolds, Kim goes from being a calculating, manipulative sociopath dwelling on suicide–as much out of boredom and a desire to shock/stun the people who believe they’re close to her as very real depression over the fact that nothing brings her any sort of pleasure in life–to a cold-blooded monster. The turning point seems to be that pivotal decision in many teenager’s lives, whether they should have sex and with whom.
Developing a fixation on serial killers as well as torture-porn movies (and actual pornography featuring torture) and finding a spark of pleasure in these things, it’s no real surprise that everything goes dark and brutal from there. She determines her first time should be with someone she has to break down and degrade to get there, and she sets her sights on her sex-ed teacher. When sex itself turns out to be less than the life-changing experience she was hoping for, instead of letting it depress her further, she finds entirely new ways to get herself off.
Destroying lives, creating turmoil that spreads everywhere around her, and always seeking an even greater thrill, Kim finally discovers that catharsis she was desperately searching for. As she decides to go “full brutal” everything continues getting worse for those surrounding her.
Dani George provides fantastic narration that captures the coldness and cruelty of Kim as well as breathing life into the vapid superficiality of her peers and friends–if one could consider these people to be either of those things.
I’m torn, because I appreciate the way this book turns the psychopathic killer trope on its head in a sense, transitioning the usual victim of these sorts of stories into the perpetrator. The skillful storytelling is the same as I’ve come to expect from Triana, along with the depravity and attention to gritty, unsettling details. Those things are fantastic elements.
On the other hand, I feel like Kim is sort of an exaggerated, almost sexist caricature of the sort of girls all rape-culture assholes like to pretend are all over the place. You surely know what I mean if you’ve bothered to torture yourself by reading incel screeds and the like. To a certain sort of guy, the world is populated by girls/women who will manipulate, dominate, and take what they want at any cost. For that sort of person, all girls are a stone’s throw from threatening to cry rape if they aren’t getting everything they want, or just because it’s funny to ruin someone’s life. To guys like that, most (if not all) girls are secretly very much like Kim…excepting the murderous streak. In that sense, I find the character and the story to be a bit problematic in the same way I would if the protagonist were a caricature of the mythical “welfare queen” from the Reagan era…as it sort of breathes life into an ignominious stereotype that should be allowed to die the off-screen death it deserves.
Taking the good with the bad, I still can’t help but recommend this book to anyone who enjoys extreme horror. The best sort of horror is the kind that makes you uncomfortable and forces you to examine things you’d rather ignore, and that’s precisely what you get with Full Brutal.

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