This Delicious Death | Kayla Cottingham


This Delicious Death by Kayla Cottingham

Out now fromSourcebooks Fire; 304 pages

Content Warning: Cannibalism, drugging, murder, pandemic, grief, underage drinking

About the Author: “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” (Bio from the author’s website). 

Find Kayla Cottingham on the following platforms: 

“I remember once seeing a piece of art that said the people you love become ghosts inside you. What I realized now was that it was true of the people you killed, too.”

Nothing is the same after the Hollowing. The virus starts like a stomach bug but quickly turns into something more sinister. With high school graduation around the corner, Zoey and her best friends Celeste, Valeria, and Jasmine—who were brought together by their shared Hollowed transformation—embark on their first road trip since the outbreak to Desert Bloom, an indie music festival in the Mojave Desert. Things get even more complicated than just managing their hunger with lab-grown SynFlesh tissue when Zoey realizes she has feelings for Celeste and even more so when Valeria unexpectedly goes feral and eats her new crush’s bandmate. Can Zoey and crew figure out what is causing the influx of savage behavior among the Hollows before everyone is harmed and admit her feelings along the way?

I had no idea what to expect from This Delicious Death, but I was intrigued by the teaser of best friends attending a music festival with a cooler of human organs. I really wanted to like this young adult horror read, but it ultimately missed the mark. A major component of the novel was the evolving group dynamics between Zoey and her friends as their circumstances transformed from bad to worse. While I appreciate how tight-knit the friends were, many of their interactions seem completely unrealistic. One minute they are cuddling, the next they are accusing each other of having romantic feelings for one another and then leaving each other to defend themselves alone in the woods. This lack of cohesion made for a difficult read, especially considering I did not feel any romantic tension between the characters. I was also confused why the group would choose to attend an exclusive indie band festival when they spend the duration making fun of the music quality. The cannibalism element was handled thoughtfully, but some references to the Hollowing may be upsetting to readers, considering COVID-19 lockdown similarities. The best part of the novel was when each character’s unique Hollowing flashback memories were slowly revealed throughout. However, the main plot was essentially a group of friends running around a festival they do not seem to want to be at, dodging their feelings, and unrealistically saving the day despite being entirely inept. 

I recommend This Delicious Death for the positive, inclusive LGBTQ+ representation and to those interested in semi-post-apocalyptic circumstances who do not mind a little gore at the expense of a realistic plot. 

(Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change before final publication.)

PRR Writer & Editor, Emilee Ceuninck