The Incendiaries- R. O. Kwon

Updated: Jan 6, 2019

Rating- 6/10


Incendiary | noun

in•cen•di•ary | plural- incendiaries

Definition of Incendiary

1.a. A person who commits arson

b. A substance or weapon (such as a bomb) used to start fires


2.a. A person who excites factions, quarrels or sedition. Agitator.

(Definition from Merriam- Webster dictionary)


Example of the use of the word Incendiary-

Failed incendiaries are found next to a pick up truck and a building.


I'm not gonna lie, I don't exactly use the word incendiary in my everyday language, I'm pretty sure I've heard this word being used in movies, so I definitely googled the true definition of the word. Hope that helped you too!


If I could use one word to describe this book it would be 'Intriguing'. This is an intriguing book. I didn't love it and I didn't hate it, I liked it and I was definitely intrigued!


The incendiaries by R. O. Kwon is a novel that follows two main characters. Phoebe Lin who is a glamorous, vivacious girl who deals with her own inner demons and doesn't tell anyone she blames herself for her mother's death. Then there's Will Kendall, who is a misfit, and transfers to an elite university called Edwards University, where he meets Phoebe. Will left his hometown, and an intense religious Christian background behind to start fresh at Edwards University and waits tables to get by. Will soon falls devastatingly in love with Phoebe. Meanwhile, Phoebe slowly gets drawn into a cult, a religious group which turns out to be an extremist cult founded by a let's say 'charismatic' former student named John Leal (He's a total creeper 👀 ). He has a crazy past that involves being in a gulag in North Korea and also has a past with Phoebe's American-Korean family. Will begins to struggle with Phoebe's new obsession that is quickly consuming the girl that he loves. Soon after, in the name of faith, the 'cult' bombs several buildings killing five innocent people and Phoebe disappears. Will is left wondering if Phoebe truly had something to do with this devastating attack and devotes himself to finding her and seeking answers as to where she is and if she is responsible or capable of such violence.


What a story eh? The incendiaries is a fractured love story and really digs into what can happen to people who lose what they love most and what truly goes on in the minds of such dangerous extremist criminals. R. O. Kwon's characters are complex, dynamic, and are struggling to figure out their lives in such complicated situations as young adults. This is a bold book to write, she asks a lot of questions that many writers don't dare to ask through her fictional writing. I also found it interesting that because Will loses his faith in God, he sort of very quickly replaces it with his obsession with Phoebe. Dealing with loss is a hard thing to do and R. O. Kwon totally dives into that theme which most books rarely speak about. It was quite believable. You could also see how exactly it is that people come to join certain cults or religious groups, it's all in the mind! It's nuts. A truly well written book I gotta say.


I liked that the story was told from the perspective of Will as well as Phoebe and John Leal, 3 main characters. Also her style of writing was very different to what I'm used to reading. She structures her sentences in a very interesting way that makes you think about what your reading. Not gonna lie, I did re-read her sentences at times but only to truly understand what she was trying to convey. Very unique. I liked it. It's a sharp little novel, and definitely leaves a little sting in your mind after reading it.


This is definitely a book that I won't be forgetting about anytime soon. Like I said, I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it, I liked it. It's Intriguing. I really recommend this book if you would like to switch up your reading list and also read an incredibly different, slightly unsettling, but a bold, sharp book. It's a hard book to review actually, but what a stellar & sophisticated debut novel from R. O. Kwon. I'm impressed. Who knows what she'll come out with next! Also I am loving all these BAME writers that are totally killin the book scene at the moment! Yasss! Keep em comin.


To buy 'The Incediaries' by R. O. Kwon for yourself, CLICK HERE for amazon books y'all.

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