Friendships, alliances and rivalries have been a major component of high school since the history of high schools. There are actually processes in the brain in pre teenager hood to focus the developing brain on friendships by making them rewarding in a way that they had not been before. Most teens would do anything for their close, enduring, or identity providing friendships.
And that’s what the three books I am reviewing here that deal with the demonic in high school, are really about. Yes, dark forces, but mainly the links that we make with one another as kids that feel like the most important things in the world.
The Merciless, Danielle Vega
This one is pretty messed up. YA meets Stephen King. And I guess it has been a movie for at least two years, which is further proof that I live under a rock somewhere. I concede it is perfect movie material. Scary, dark, out of control, seemingly perfect teen girls with dark and twisted confessions of their misdeeds pouring out of them. The reader is not sure who is evil in this story of girls who tie up one in their basement to perform an exorcism, saying that the one tied up is evil, because that one allegedly slept with one of their boyfriends. The exorcism scene in the house got pretty dragged out, but it was supposed to be hours of torture and I suppose someone more into the horror genre would like that more than I did. This one less follows the ideas of genuine possession by demons and is more a gray area about if there is any real demonic forces here or just an excuse to seriously harm and torture someone who did something you did not like. Almost gratuitous violence and bullying. Drama gone completely off the deep end, with seemingly perfect Southern girls with scary secrets and empty hearts and souls. Which is likely why it is a movie, with sequels to this book. It was all right.
Evil Librarian, Michelle Knudsen
This one is more in the middle between something more lighthearted versus something more seriously and closely demonic, insidious and creeping like the final book that I am putting in this series of reviews. Yes, there is a librarian who clearly is on the dark side pretty early on. There is not a ton of buildup of figuring out what is going on because defeating the demon is really more the focus of the story. A girl is saving her best friend from the throes of a demon who wants to draw on her to win a battle for the demon throne, and in her efforts to vanquish him that go wrong a passage for other demons to enter the school and suck the life force out of the kids is opened. I mean, what kid never wonders if the adults in their lives are all entirely human? The main characters are still living their somewhat normal lives when all of this is going on, putting on a fall musical no less, and they are trying to pry their school back from the talons of evil. The talons that are holding off until after they see the musical because they love it. So, demons and scary but some lighthearted this is really about high school too. The protagonist grows up as a result of putting herself in mortal danger to save her friend and her high school. Learns her power and is more confident in going after what she wants. You know, like you do.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Grady Hendrix
Other BookRiot reviewers have agreed with me that this is a pretty good book. It is the closest to the information I have read about how a possession really comes about and it is creepy, and scary, and insidious, and about friends saving friends. This is abundantly clear despite the copious 80s references that the author does well in carrying throughout. The friendship builds from when the girls are ten into a night where her friend wanders off one night when they are supposed to be tripping and she comes back a different girl. No one will listen, nearly every adult her best friend tries to access does not believe her and it actually gets her in more trouble with the adults, especially when she admits that hallucinogens were involved. She is even abandoned when she gets to the point of actually doing the exorcism with the one adult she does find. This was scary, gripping and altogether high school halloween-y. I wonder if the 80s references are meant to lighten the darkness of the entire book and make it still appealing to its intended YA audience, even though oldies like me are more likely to relate to and remember bits of that time period. Like I remember seeing genuine VHS cases in this era with the black cover with the rainbow stripes down the sides, like this one. And I always rewound them before I returned them to the sweet video rental places that were real stores and not red boxes that my son wants to stand in front of to look at all the pictures.
High school can be drama enough without demons! But it is a good setting for an evil theme because friendships are so important and friends are the ones who pull us out of the muck, anyway.
Halloween posts continue!