08/02/2016
ISBN: 9781101994702
Hardcover/Audiobook/ebook
available for preorder

The Smaller Evil

Young fans of the hairpin plot twists and turns of psychological thrillers will be drawn to Kuehn’s latest offering….a Gillian Flynn-style take on cults and self-help retreats.

School Library Journal (starred review)

Kuehn elevates the religious cult novel with this sophisticated psychological mystery….transfixing.
Suspenseful and enigmatic, bristling with Stephanie Kuehn’s vivid prose and sharp-eyed characterizations, The Smaller Evil kept me guessing till the very last page. I immediately flipped back to the first page to read it again, and so will you.
—Laura Ruby, Michael L. Printz Award winning author of Bone Gap
The Smaller Evil, with an engaging main character, precise, vivid writing and a continuous rushing train of tensions, is a captivating thriller.

          —2015 PEN/Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Working Writer Fellowship Judges

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’s certain he’s failing at 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.