About the Book

Title: The Last Laugh (The Initial Insult #2)
Published: 2022

Cover Story: Montell Jordan Award
BFF Charm: No, Hell No and OH HELLLLLLLL NO
Talky Talk: Mindy McGinnis Award for WTFery
Bonus Factors: Family Secrets
Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: Flight Risk

Content Warning: The Last Laugh features graphic depictions of bodily harm, violence, untreated injuries, and animal abuse. It’s not for the faint of heart!

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

GIF from Montell Jordan's music video "This Is How We Do It"

HOLY COW Y’ALL. I am losing it over this cover and the new, matching cover for The Initial Insult as well.

These covers are a million times better than the original hardback for The Initial Insult. They capture the chaotic, dark vibe of this duology, and I love seeing the side-by-side of Tress and Felicity’s faces. Truly, this feels like such a breath of fresh air compared to all the cutesy cartoon covers out there right now. BRAVO, NO NOTES.

The Deal:

~*~sPoILeR aLeRt~*~ This is your official warning that The Last Laugh is the second installment in The Initial Insult duology, and thus, this book report contains some major spoilerage. Continue at your own risk, babies.

It’s the morning after the party at the Allen house. Tress Montor just murdered her best friend, Felicity, and she’s no closer to knowing why her parents disappeared all those years ago. She was also just mauled by a jaguar that escaped her grandfather’s roadside zoo attraction, and she can’t get medical attention for her arm without drawing attention to herself and putting her home and the other animals at risk.

Her cousin, Ribbit Usher, is still trending online after a video of him being bullied and humiliated at the party went viral. Everyone in school has seen him naked, and heard him admit all his most embarrassing secrets. Ribbit plans to get his revenge, but first, he has to find Felicity.

The Allen house is scheduled to be demolished soon, and Tress is the only person who knows Felicity is bricked inside a coal chute in its basement. As the aftermath of the party and Felicity’s disappearance coincide with Amontillado’s Homecoming and the seven year anniversary of her parents’ disappearance, Tress has to figure out what happened to her parents before people learn what she did to Felicity – if she even lives that long.

BFF Charm: No, Hell No and OH HELLLLLLLL NO

Hell No BFF Charm in Flames

It’s the same BFF charms I handed out before, but now with a slight shift in recipients!

No: Tress

Tress gets upgraded from a Hell No to a simple No this time around. She has realized the error of her ways, and now she’s nursing a NASTY jaguar maul, just trying her best to stay alive. She’s also dealing with the guilt and pain and regret of accidentally killing Felicity. As her story unfolds in The Last Laugh, it’s hard not to wonder how different Tress would have turned out if it weren’t for the adults in her family – or even more broadly, in Amontillado. She gets a bit of a redemption arc this time around, and though I was happy with the ending, I’m still not giving her a BFF charm and tbh, I doubt Tress would want one.

Hell No: Rue the Orangutan

Since the jaguar is still out on the prowl, this time, we get the occasional chapter from the perspective of Rue the orangutan. I actually loved Rue – she loves and protects Tress, and tries to warn her of danger. But Rue is still a wild animal and McGinnis quite graphically shows us exactly what Rue is capable of when her instincts kick in. And for that reason alone, I can’t give her a BFF charm. Hell no.

OH HELLLLLLLL NO: Ribbit

Since Felicity was left dead at the bottom of a coal chute at the end of the first book, we now get alternating chapters from Tress and her cousin, Ribbit Usher. After Ribbit went uber-viral for the video from the party, he’s been getting more attention from the popular people at school, and he plans to use that attention for two reasons: 1) to find Felicity and 2) to enact revenge. I can’t tell you much about Ribbit without spoilers but HOLY SHIT THIS GUY. *makes fingers into an X*

Swoonworthy Scale: ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Tress is fighting for her actual life throughout the entire book, there is nary a moment for romance in her story.

But Ribbit……whew, girl. Ribbit has been convinced since he was a kid that he and Felicity Turnado are meant to be together by some divine right. His plan to rescue her is all driven by the idea that he’ll be the white knight and she’ll be his Princess Peach or whatever and they’ll live happily ever after. And the whole thing STINKS of incel.

Talky Talk: Mindy McGinnis Award For WTFery

I won’t lie, this book was dark even for Mindy. There were times, especially in the first half, where things felt so dark it made my stomach hurt. But I was ENTHRALLED from start to finish, y’all. Every time I thought the story couldn’t get wilder, it WILDED. Every time I thought Mindy wouldn’t go there, she freaking WENT THERE. I assure you, you will not guess where this plot is taking you.

But most importantly, this book tied up all the loose ends from The Initial Insult in a masterful way. My main complaint with the first book was that it felt like a lot – maybe too much – was going on at once. But this go around, McGinnis has me putting my foot in my mouth (not literally, but then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone ate a literal foot in this book).

Bonus Factor: Family Secrets

The cast of Knives Out as a family portrait.

Everyone in Amontillado has secrets, but Tress’ family is particularly full of them. Tress was so frustrated and fed up with not knowing WTF was going on with her family that she tried to murder her best friend in the first book, so you can imagine how satisfying it is to watch the layers of the Montor / Usher family onion get peeled back.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting

Evil Dan Scott from One Tree Hill

No, the parents were NOT better in this book. We finally get the backstory of Tress’ parents and it is even wilder than I could’ve imagined. Truly out of left field – I did NOT see it coming.

Relationship Status: Flight Risk

I read the second half of this book on an overseas flight and I could not read fast enough. My eyeballs could not open wide enough to ABSORB all the madness. It was a wild ride, and when I finished, I looked around me at a bunch of strangers on a plane, desperate to talk about WTF I’d just read.

So what I’m saying is read this duology immediately. I need to talk about it.

Literary Matchmaking

Panic

In Lauren Oliver’s Panic, the only way out of a dead-end town is to compete in a series of high-stakes challenges, and Heather and Dodge both need to win.

The Truth Beneath the Lies

Kayla has lived a hard-knock life and just wishes she could escape. Betsy is on the run, hiding from Him. When fate brings them together, only one girl will make it out the other side.

Hate List

Valerie’s life changes forever when her boyfriend Nick brings a gun to school and opens fire on everyone on his Hate List – a list Valerie helped him make.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from HarperCollins. I did not receive money or Girl Scout cookies of any kind (not even the gross cranberry ones) for writing this review. The Last Laugh is available now.

Rosemary lives in Little Rock, AR with her husband and cocker spaniel. At 16, she plucked a copy of Sloppy Firsts off the "New Releases" shelf and hasn't stopped reading YA since. She is a brand designer who loves tiki drinks, her mid-century modern house, and obsessive Google mapping.