Kate’s Review: “We Sold Our Souls”

37715859Book: “We Sold Our Souls” by Grady Hendrix

Publishing Info: Quirk Books, September 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from NetGalley

Book Description: A new novel of supernatural horror (and pop culture) from the author of Horrorstor, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, and Paperbacks from Hell.

In the 1990s, heavy metal band Dürt Würk was poised for breakout success — but then lead singer Terry Hunt embarked on a solo career and rocketed to stardom as Koffin, leaving his fellow bandmates to rot in rural Pennsylvania.

Two decades later, former guitarist Kris Pulaski works as the night manager of a Best Western – she’s tired, broke, and unhappy. Everything changes when she discovers a shocking secret from her heavy metal past: Turns out that Terry’s meteoric rise to success may have come at the price of Kris’s very soul.

This revelation prompts Kris to hit the road, reunite with the rest of her bandmates, and confront the man who ruined her life. It’s a journey that will take her from the Pennsylvania rust belt to a Satanic rehab center and finally to a Las Vegas music festival that’s darker than any Mordor Tolkien could imagine. A furious power ballad about never giving up, even in the face of overwhelming odds, We Sold Our Souls is an epic journey into the heart of a conspiracy-crazed, paranoid country that seems to have lost its very soul…where only a girl with a guitar can save us all. 

Review: A special thanks to NetGalley for sending me and eARC of this book!

My musical heart deftly belongs to New Wave and Punk music, but I have indeed dabbled in the wonders of metal, specifically Norwegian Black Metal bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone. So with my slight knowledge of some history of the evolution of black metal (thanks, Last Podcast on the Left!) I was all the more intrigued by Grady Hendrix’s new horror novel “We Sold Our Souls”. Given how much I thoroughly enjoyed “My Best Friend’s Exorcism”, I had high hopes that his newest work would be a similar reading experience.

giphy6
But with more corpse paint. (source)

We follow Kris, a former heavy metal musician whose life has gone off the rails. She used to be a founding member of gritty club band Dürt Würk that was on the edge of stardom, only for one night that has haunted her ever since to throw them all off track. Now Kris is working at a Best Western, and her former friend and bandmate, Terry Hunt, has found stardom through Nu Metal with a band called Koffin. Kris is a fairly typical Hendrix protagonist, in that she is flawed and damaged, but scrappy as hell. Her passion for metal is apparent from the get go, but Hendrix never falls into any familiar tropes that other less skilled authors may have implemented. Kris isn’t a sexy bad girl with dyed hair and a snarly attitude, nor is she too edgy for her own good (because ‘edgy’ is obviously how a woman metal head would be). On the contrary, she’s older, she’s a bit used up, and she’s somewhat unlikable, but she also has a heart and a soul and a drive to reclaim her past and the success that she assuredly is owed. Her love of the genre is thrown into every page, with quick and dirty history lessons tossed in here and there to give her a serious grounding within her place and her motivations. Hendrix is great at tossing in the pop culture without being overt about it, so it feels organic and natural as opposed to slapped on for the sake of it. Her journey of reconnecting with her bandmates, and then figuring out that they are in danger because of an ever present dark force that goes back to the night the band broke up, is a fun journey that has a lot of moments of pathos, be it about lost friendships, the unfairness of the music industry, or loving something so much and just not quite achieving a life within in no matter how hard you try. Kris’s story in this regard absolutely worked for me.

What didn’t work as well were the actual horror aspects of this book. As it says in the description, Kris’s soul was sold to a demonic entity so that Terry could succeed. It isn’t as simple as a Mephistopheles kind of deal, as Hendrix makes his own mythos and runs with it. While I appreciate the creativity here, I think that Hendrix does falter a bit when it comes to the horror elements of his books. There were scenes with various demonic beings, creatures, and forces that were meant to scare and unsettle, but every time we interacted with them it felt a little bit forced. Some of the scariest moments had nothing to do with the demons, and more to do with everyday horrors that felt plausible and completely realistic. For example, there is a scene where Kris has found herself in an underground pipe system, and can’t go backwards, only forwards, not knowing if the pipe is going to dead end out, or if she is going to get stuck. THIS was the part of the book that had my heart racing, not seeing someone get torn to pieces by possessed followers of Terry. Hendrix’s true strength is within the heart he gives his characters, and if this book had just been about a former band member confronting the person who did her wrong, without the supernatural elements, it would have been just as lovely and effective. But that doesn’t say much about the horror elements, now does it.

All that said, I did enjoy reading “We Sold Our Souls”, and think that Hendrix has once again delivered an entertaining and heartfelt book. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go blast some Darkthrone on a loop for a bit and just get lost in the music that he so lovingly brings to life within the pages of this book.

Rating 7: A fun love letter to heavy metal, “We Sold Our Souls” has a lot of strengths, but also falls into familiar traps when Hendrix tries a little too hard to be scary.

Reader’s Advisory:

“We Sold Our Souls” is fairly new and not on any Goodreads lists as of yet. But if you are interested in metal music, “Lords of Chaos” may be of interest to you, and it would also fit in on “Books for Metalheads”.

Find “We Sold Our Souls” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Boy Next Door”

176473Book: “The Boy Next Door” (Fear Street #39) by. R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1996

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: This guy’s got killer looks…

Lauren and Crystal think Scott has it all. He’s handsome. He’s the new star of Shadyside High’s football team. And he’s moved in right next door! Both girls will do anything. Say anything. Try anything to get the chance to go out with him. That’s all either of them want.

But that’s all Scott’s last girlfriend wanted, too—and now she’s dead.

Had I Read This Before: No.

The Plot: We open with an as of yet unnamed narrator who is attending their girlfriend Dana’s funeral. It’s first person POV, and the narrator is talking about how they convinced Dana to sneak with them into the backyard of their neighbor so they could go swimming after dark. They convinced Dana to do a swan dive off the diving board, and she did… but joke’s on her, the pool was empty, and since it was pitch black apparently (light pollution or other lights from neighboring houses nonexistent) she didn’t realize it and crashed headfirst into the cement. Our narrator muses about how they pulled her out and waited for her last breath before calling out for help. Apparently this was all done because they didn’t like that Dana started wearing short skirts and make-up because that’s ‘no way to behave’, but they say that they REALLY hope their next girlfriend doesn’t make them commit murder like Dana did.

Wow. Wow wow wow. You know, I’d say something snarky, but given that I feel like this is how incels actually approach women I just am kind of saddened by how ‘too real’ this prologue is.

Jump to Shadyside, specifically Fear Street, where Crystal is on the phone with her BFF since third grade Lynne as they talk about make-up and boys (NOTE: her name is Lynne, not Lauren, and boy was THAT a significant typo to be on the back cover of this book). Crystal notices that a moving truck has pulled up to the house next door, and who should jump out but a very CUTE BOY! Crystal gives Lynne the play by play as she watches the cute boy walk into the house, and then into the room across from her window. As Crystal watches him take his shirt off (at Lynne’s insistence, natch), she panics as he spots her. She drops the phone and disconnects from Lynne, and by the time she calls back he’s pulled his shade down. And, wouldn’t you know it, this new boy next door was our previous unnamed narrator. His name is Scott, and boy does he think Crystal looks like a TRAMP for wearing make up and a low cut LEOTARD, my GOD! He swears to himself that he won’t get so close to her that her wantonness makes him kill her.

giphy6
We aren’t even twenty five pages in and the misogyny is already trying the LAST of my patience (source).

Sometime later there is a knocking on Crystal’s front door, and while she hopes it’s Scott it’s just Lynne, whose blonde hair is now in ‘a thousand tiny braids’ in an effort to look like Bo Derek but really just looks like cultural appropriation. They split some ice cream and gossip about Scott (who is now Tailback for the Shadyside Tigers), and when Crystal’s Mom walks in the room Crystal internally laments that her mother is SO pretty but isn’t intersted in dating and isn’t that sad? I mean, Crystal, I get you want your Mom to be happy,  but maybe she is still a little bummed that your father died in that car accident a few years back? THEN Crystal’s sister Melinda walks in, and BOY IS SHE DRAB, with her sweaters and glasses and non polished nails! MAN! Then Lynne brings up some boy named Todd who asked Crystal out even though Melinda liked him, and Crystal can’t help being pretty and popular, Melinda, so why so upset about that blatant betrayal? Lynne asks Melinda what SHE thinks of Scott, and Melinda just blushes, which Crystal finds ‘sad’, because if she’s so SHY around boys she’ll NEVER get a boyfriend. Lynne states she’s going to ask him out, but Crystal says that SHE wants to ask him out, and they make a pact that whoever gets to go out with him (Melinda included, though Melinda isn’t too hopeful it would happen), rules need to be followed. 1) Be happy for whoever gets him, and 2) don’t try to sabotage the others to get an upper hand. They all agree, and Melinda goes off to read (NERD, amiright?), and Lynne goes to use the bathroom, but tosses a new tube of lipstick to Crystal. Crystal applies some, and then looks out the window to see Scott staring at her. Then he looks REAL mad about something, and hits the ground with the hoe he’s holding.

You’d think the Hoe Incident would have been a big ol’ red flag to Crystal, but at lunch later that week she and Lynne go to talk with Scott and another football player named Jake in hopes he’ll notice one of them. Lynne flirts relentlessly, but Scott seems more interested in talking to Crystal, and Crystal tells herself his garden tantrum must have been because of a fight with his parents or something. Lynne invites Scott over to her house that coming Sunday for a party (right in front of Jake, who has a thing for Lynne, so she cordially invites him too), but Scott says he can’t go. Lynne places her hand on his arm, and he raises his knife up in the air! Crystal thinks he’s going to stab Lynne, but he’s just pumping his fist for the sudden flash mob of a pep rally the cheerleaders are doing. She wonders if she’s losing it, and I’m thinking someone needs to give her “The Gift of Fear” STAT.

That Saturday Crystal goes into Melinda’s room in hopes of getting information on Scott (since Melinda shares a class with him). She also thinks about how lame Melinda is, what with her re-reading “Jane Eyre”, but I guess Melinda has her own prejudices because she rolls her eyes at her sister’s nail polish fetish. Melinda thinks that Scott is ‘sad’ about something (yes, very sad about murdering his girlfriend no doubt), and Crystal says that she thinks Lynne is going to win the contest because she is SO FLIRTY AND OUT THERE, and Crystal hasn’t gotten any phone calls from any guys in the past few weeks (except one, but that barely counts). Melinda isn’t exactly weeping in sympathy, and Crystal concludes that she’s jealous because Melinda is such an introvert and boys don’t pay any attention to her. She asks Melinda if she likes Scott too, and Melinda says she doesn’t even KNOW Scott so how could she like him? Crystal doesn’t accept that, but then Lynne calls so the sister conversation screeches to a halt. Lynne is bummed because Scott hasn’t called her either. Crystal mentions that Jake said that Scott is a good guy and a good football player, and Lynne decides that she should immediately hang up and pump Jake for information about this guy. Which seems a bit insensitive because Jake likes Lynne and Lynne knows it, but oh well. Crystal goes to get the mail and finds some that belongs to Scott’s dad, and sees this as the perfect opportunity to go ask him out. Meanwhile, Scott wakes up from a dream or something, thinking that he dreamed about killing the dog of a woman who ’embarrasses’ him by making kissy faces at him as he walks by. She’s described as having peroxide blonde hair and a nose ring, and could it be Suki Thomas?! I miss Suki!!! But then he looks at his hands, and realizes that there’s blood all over them. So maybe it wasn’t a dream after all. Luckily he has time to bury the dog!

After gathering the courage to go ask Scott out, Crystal walks up to the door (this has to be later…) and knocks on it. No one answers, but the door is open, so Crystal takes this as an invitation to walk inside. After all, if she doesn’t ask him out, Lynne certainly will! She climbs the steps, thinking her hears voices, and when she gets to the top she calls out for Scott. Someone then jumps out from behind a door and grabs her, but it’s just Jake playing a trick. Hardy har har, Jake. She follows him into Scott’s room, and Jake points out that they can see her bedroom from his bedroom. When he implies that Scott could spy, Scott gets SUPER offended and only calms down when Crystal says she knows he’d never do that. The doorbell rings, and Scott goes to answer it. When he comes back, Lynne is there! She claims that she was looking for Jake, but then looks VERY surprised and perturbed perhaps to see Crystal. Jake asks why she wanted to see him, and she says she needs help with her homework. So when Scott kicks them all out, Jake literally picks Lynne up and says he’ll help her right now. This is played for laughs, but given all the other creepy sexist stuff in here it just sticks out even worse than I probably would have before. Crystal doesn’t quite get the hint, but Scott asks her to leave too. Then he reiterates that he wouldn’t spy on her. Crystal hopes that he will kiss her, but when he doesn’t she leaves, humiliated. And then Scott is really mad that Crystal has been tempting him, and tries to calm down by reading the American Family magazine that she brought over… But then there’s a woman model in tight jeans, so he stabs himself in the hand. Like I said. Incel.

Later that week Crystal is determined to go ask Scott out, but when she gets to his house she sees Lynne parked on his porch with a bag of chips and a six pack of soda. Then Jake and Scott walk up, and once again they have an awkward hang out day in Scott’s house, watching TV together. Crystal not so subtly asks Scott if he has a girlfriend, and he says that he doesn’t anymore. Lynne asks why he hasn’t asked anyone out then, and he says he’s not ready. Crystal can tell that Scott seems upset, and wonders if Melinda was right about him. She crosses to sit next to him and asks why he doesn’t feel ready, and his weird flinchy reaction (so sexy, right girls?) makes her think that Melinda IS right. Lynne asks what the fuss is about and Scott says that he’s NOT ready to talk about it, and Crystal feels bad for being so ‘pushy’ with him because he probably has a broken heart and this is driving him crazy. Lynne suggests that they all go bike riding (though she implies that Crystal should go off with Jake), but once again Scott kicks them out, saying he has homework to do. The three of them start to leave, but then Lynne says she forgot her backpack. When she comes back out a few minutes later, Crystal can tell something happened. She waits for Jake to leave her house before asking Lynne, and Lynne says that she’s the winner because she kissed him. Crystal is mad, and Lynne reminds her of the first rule of the pact. Crystal says one kiss does NOT mean going out, but Lynne says she and Scott are going to be the talk of school. Meanwhile, Scott is so angry about her having the audacity to kiss him, he decides that she has to die.

So Scott goes to Lynne’s house and sneaks in, and finds her in the kitchen. He suggests that they go for a ride, and she says sure. He takes her to a cliffside under guise of looking at the view, but Lynne says she’s more interested in the view in the car. She tries to make a move, but he isn’t keen on it, and she says he’s weird because he broke and entered into her house and NOW he won’t even look at her, so what gives? She starts to kiss at him, and he’s about to smash her face into the dashboard, but then a random deus ex machina man knocks on the window asking for directions. Lynne gives them to him, and Scott knows he can’t kill her now. He thinks that she knew that he was going to kill her, but instead she comments on his ‘wild side’.

A week later Crystal and Lynne are hanging out at Lynne’s house and she’s SO upset that Scott hasn’t called her since their ‘date’. Crystal reminds her that he said he wasn’t ready to date, and maybe he tried but changed his mind. Lynne, so obsessed, doesn’t think that’s true, and for some reason they decide to call his with terrible French accents? For some reason? First two times it’s his mom. On the third time Lynne takes over, but Scott answers, and she panics. She admits that it’s her, and asks him if he wants to come over that night because her parents are out of town. Crystal is actually rooting for her now. But he says he has to clean up his room, and HONESTLY, LYNNE, at this point you need to just take the hint that he isn’t interested! I’m not siding with a psychopath, but if he was just a usual guy this would be really obsessive stalking behavior and it’s totally inappropriate. Scott hangs up and his Mom calls him to dinner. She complains about the prank calls and says that he shouldn’t hang out with ‘a girl like that’, and now we kinda get a glimpse into where his psychosis comes from.

giphy7
Mommy issues are truly an old reliable in horror! (source)

As she scolds him he decides that her weird anger at him over a dumb prank call is all Lynne’s fault, and imagines her guts spilling out.

Sometime later Crystal is calling Lynne but not getting an answer. It’s really late and she wonders where Lynne could be. She goes up into the attic, as Melinda likes to read up there, and they have a sisterly heart to heart about how different they are. Crystal says she doesn’t get how Melinda can be so comfortable being alone, but Melinda says that she doesn’t need other people to feel comfortable with herself. I like Melinda. Crystal is so worried about Lynne she goes to her house to check on her. She lets herself in with a spare key, noting a strange smell outside, and goes upstairs. She doesn’t find Lynne, but she does find a suicide note in which Lynne says that she had been acting in a way that was ‘no way to behave’!!! She realizes that the strange smell was exhaust, and runs out of the house and to the garage. She hears a car running, but can’t get the door open! When she jumps up to look in the window, she sees Lynne in the running car, dead!

At the funeral Scott thinks it’s dumb that Crystal is crying about Lynne being dead. After all, Lynne is dead because she ‘couldn’t behave’. He forced her by knifepoint to write the note and then locked her in the garage. He doesn’t like Crystal still because she had been throwing herself at him, but now that she’s stopped she’s a little better. He DOES, however, like Melinda, because MELINDA DOES know how to behave. He’s so relieved that Lynne is dead because now he won’t have to kill anyone ever again! Unless, of course, Crystal can’t behave…

A while later Melinda and Crystal are having another sisterly heart to heart, spilling their feelings and working out their differences. Melinda admits that she was jealous that Crystal and Lynne were so close. They are considering going to Jake’s house for a party when Scott calls! Crystal answers and they chat, and he says that he’d really hate for what happened to Lynne to happen to her. Crystal chalks it up to him just being worried about her, but then she’s floored, FLOORED when he says he actually wants to talk to Melinda! So Crystal hands the phone off, and Melinda talks to Scott… He then asks her to come over to the party at Jake’s! Melinda is freaking out, unsure of what to do or how to act, and Crystal encourages her to wear something cute and not like her dumpy usual clothes. Melinda isn’t sure, but Crystal says she will get her looking good, what a good deed she’s doing! And under normal circumstances, yes, but…..

At Jake’s party Scott is disgusted by all displays of women feeling confident in themselves. And when Melinda arrives, he is horrified to see her in a SHORT SKIRT!!! SO EVIL! But he does like that she waits to be invited in, so her manners are impeccable and that’s enough to grant a stay of execution for now. Later that night when Melinda gets home Crystal wants to hear everything. Melinda says that he didn’t kiss her goodnight, but he DID tell her about his old girlfriend, and that she died. He even cried about it. And then he asked her out for a movie that Saturday night. Crystal is wary about this, and she wonders if she’s just jealous, or if something else is nagging at her…

That Saturday Crystal is ‘helping’ Melinda get ready for her date. Melinda isn’t interested in wearing fancy clothes or make up, and refuses to let Crystal put any on. When Crystal protests, Melinda says that this is the way she dresses and she doesn’t want to gussy up! Crystal forces some blush on her, and there’s no time for Melinda to take it off because Scott is there to pick her up. Of course, when he sees her wearing MAKE UP he is FURIOUS. He takes the highway to the movie, and considers throwing her out the door! He almost does it too, but then changes his mind because he REALLY likes her, so he’s going to give her one more chance! Ugh. When Melinda gets home from her date she laments to Crystal that Scott doesn’t like her because he was quiet the whole time. Crystal says that that’s because Melinda is giving him mixed signals! SHE NEEDS TO DRESS SEXY AND WEAR MAKE UP, DAMMIT!

giphy8
(source)

Guys, I’m so frustrated. Like, okay, Scott is disgusting because he is a violent misogynist, and girls can wear make up and sexy outfits because him valuing purity is ridiculous and it does nothing but reduce women to objects, and this objectification of them when they don’t live up to his standards allows him to see them as less than human, and therefore okay to kill. BUT IN THE SAME VEIN, if Melinda doesn’t want to wear sexy outfits and doesn’t want to wear make up, THAT IS OKAY TOO!!! Why are we trying to make this into a value thing by saying that ‘oh no, Crystal wanting to gussy her up is going to get her killed!’, when in reality SCOTT IS GOING TO KILL HER BECAUSE HE’S NUTS!? Fuck this book.

Crystal makes Melinda go to school dressed up in full makeover mode, and Melinda says she isn’t comfortable. Crystal brushes off her sister’s lack of comfort, and spots Scott down the hallway. When she approaches him he’s slamming his fist into his locker and screaming about ‘no way to behave’, but when he sees her he tells her that he forgot his combination. Crystal is relieved because she was certain he was losing it (YA THINK?!), and then drags him down the hall to see Melinda. She’s convinced that his sudden look of shock is a positive thing.

A few days later Melinda is getting ready for her date with Scott, asking Crystal for advice on clothing. Now she’s apparently into fashion. Crystal is taking her sister’s relationship with Scott like a champ, and is going out with a friend that night to take her mind off of it. But she keeps thinking about ‘no way to behave’, because that was the phrase Lynne used in her suicide note, how weird! YES CRYSTAL, IT IS WEIRD! Meanwhile, Scott is pissed that Melinda is so dressed up, and she can tell that he’s upset. She tells him that she and Crystal have been trying to hard, what with her new look and all, and then Scott realizes that it’s CRYSTAL that’s been making her change her look! He tells her that he likes her the way she was, and that this is all Crystals’ fault! So now he thinks he has to kill Crystal! Melinda gets home and yells at Crystal about all the clothing, certain that Crystal was trying to sabotage her, and when she uses the phrase ‘no way to behave’, Crystal FINALLY gets it! She tells Melinda she thinks there’s something VERY wrong with Scott, and reminds her of the locker thing and the fact his girlfriend died, but Melinda doesn’t want to hear it and locks herself in her room. Crystal goes to HER room and looks out the window at Scott’s room, and sees him with a knife in his hand! She turns off her light so he doesn’t see her, but then he’s gone…. and heading outside and towards their house through the rainstorm that’s going on outside!! He rings the doorbell, and Crystal tells Melinda not to open it, but Melinda doesn’t listen and lets him inside. He then proceeds to chase Crystal up the steps, knife in hand!! He tackles her and is about to stab her, but Melinda at the bottom of the steps claims that THAT is Melinda he’s attacking (see, they look a LOT alike now that she’s all made over and shit). Scott is confused, but falls for it, and goes back DOWN the steps, now chasing Melinda! He attacks her, but Crystal smashes a vase over his head. The phone is dead because of the rain storm outside, and so the sisters run up to the attic. They hide in the steamer trunk, and Scott comes up into the attic. He realizes they have to be in the trunk, and knocks it over. They fall out, but he can’t tell them apart in the bad light, so he’s going to just have to kill them both…. but before he can he falls through the attic floor (I guess it was established earlier in the book that there was a hole, but I missed it). We get one more jump scare with him grabbing Crystal’s leg when she goes to investigate, but then he passes out.

Three months later Melinda and Crystal are thick as thieves. Melinda is still wearing cooler clothing, but is also still true to herself because she still likes books or something. Scott’s parents moved away and he’s locked up in a mental institution. As the sisters are getting ready to watch an old movie, they notice that a moving truck has pulled up to the house next door. A cute boy jumps out of the car. Melinda says that she ‘saw him first!’ The End.

giphy10
Gross. (source)

 

Body Count: 3, kinda. We got Dana off page, a dog, and Lynne.

Romance Rating: Zipola. Fuck that.

Bonkers Rating: 5, mostly because Scott’s psychosis was all over the place.

Fear Street Relevance: I’ll give it an 8! Both Scott and Crystal live on Fear Street and lots of the important action takes place there because of it.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“She tugged open the door. Saw someone standing there. Saw someone staring back at her. And started to scream.”

… And it was a mirror!!!

That’s So Dated! Moments: Well Stine is making references to Demi Moore movies again, since Crystal thinks that if she makes her voice husky like Moore she’ll be more desirable. Also, she and Lynne think that Scott looks like Keanu Reeves, but honestly I’m looking at that cover and I am NOT seeing that at all.

Best Quote:

“‘I’m not like you,’ Melinda told her. ‘I’m quiet. I don’t want to go out just to go out. If I enjoy someone’s company – great. But I don’t want someone around whose main purpose is to keep me from being alone.'”

That is actually the most introspective moment I’ve ever seen in a “Fear Street” book, so props to you, Melinda!

Conclusion: “The Boy Next Door” wasn’t exactly promoting violent misogyny, given that Scott is clearly the bad guy in this, but it was still a little too hard to read given the higher awareness of violence towards women because of ideas of purity and chastity and owing men things simply because they’re women. So this is a hard, hard pass. Next up is “Night Games”. 

Kate’s Review & Giveaway: “The Good Demon”

38945097Book: “The Good Demon” by Jimmy Cajoleas

Publishing Info: Amulet Books, September 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: I was sent an eARC from NetGalley and a printed ARC from Amulet Books.

Book Description: True Detective meets The Exorcist in this gripping YA mystery debut about one girl’s exorcism—and her desperate quest to reunite with her demon

Clare has been miserable since her exorcism. The preacher that rid her of evil didn’t understand that her demon—simply known as Her—was like a sister to Clare. Now, Clare will do almost anything to get Her back. After a chance encounter with the son of the preacher who exorcised her, Clare goes on an adventure through the dark underbelly of her small Southern town, discovering its deep-seated occult roots. As she searches for Her, she must question the fine lines between good and evil, love and hate, and religion and free will. Vivid and sharp, The Good Demon tells the unusual story of friendship amid dark Gothic horror.

Review: I want to extend a special thank you to both NetGalley and Amulet books for sending me an eARC and a print ARC of this book.

I know that Halloween Season isn’t QUITE here yet (though honestly, once Labor Day hits I’m thinking about ghosts and ghouls and all things horror), but I just couldn’t wait for Horrorpalooza to pick up “The Good Demon” by Jimmy Cajoleas. I was fortunate enough to get approved for a copy on NetGalley, but then imagine my extra delight when I was at Serena’s and she said that we’d received a print ARC of it as well.

giphy5
Me flailing in glee when I got this book. (source)

I’d been hearing about this novel since this past summer, when it was all over my twitter feed during BookExpo. While I’m not usually someone who is super into demonic possession/exorcism stories (with a FEW exceptions, as you guys probably remember), the idea of a girl wanting her exorcised demon BACK was one that piqued my interest. The demonic possession stories I like usually buck some of the familiar tropes that are associated with the genre, but ultimately they usually still maintain the demon=bad concept. “The Good Demon” sounded like it was going to take that down as well, so picking it up I went in with some lofty expectations.

What struck me most about “The Good Demon” was Clara, our main character who is desperate to find her demon, Her, again. In many demonic possession and exorcism stories, the person being possessed is usually passive, and a secondary character that the main character is trying to help. Clara defies these trends, as not only is she the main character, she is incredibly active and entrenched in ‘doing’ within the narrative. Her reasons for wanting Her back are understandable because of how Cajoleas has written her: her father’s death was a traumatic moment in her life, her mother is an addict who has effectively picked her new husband over her own daughter, and Clara has no other friends or support systems in her life now that Her has been exorcised. While there were ample opportunities for Clara to fall into stereotypical traps of a ‘bad girl’, Cajoleas always kept her from teetering, and kept her grounded in a realistic personality. She always felt like a realistic teenage girl who has seen some shit, and her voice was authentic and natural. As she uncovers the mysteries of the small, closed minded town that she is living in, you see her go up against obstacles that aren’t always because of supernatural or occult driven issues; many of the problems she faces are because of misogyny and prejudice that is entrenched within an Evangelical culture. I liked seeing her interact with basically all of the characters, be it within flashbacks to her friendship with Her, to the fraught and sad relationship with her mother, to the complicated and bittersweet relationship she takes up with Roy, the son of the preacher who performed the exorcism. Roy is a particularly interesting foil to her, as her sullenness is matched with his fundamentalist driven optimism, and her bitterness towards his father is in stark contrast to Roy’s submission to him. It was a relationship that felt very teenager-y, with both of them making decisions that feel right in the moment, but may have fallouts that they cannot see.

I had more mixed feelings about the actual possession story. I loved the flashbacks to Her, and I liked seeing Clara and Her interact, and have a complex relationship. It sets a groundwork that makes it very believable that Clara would go as far as she would go to get Her back. That was a very fresh take on possession, that perhaps this ‘demon’ wasn’t necessarily a ‘bad’ thing. But by the end, it becomes pretty clear that the full deconstruction of the ‘possession’ story isn’t going to happen. It gets part way there, I will give it that, but ultimately it didn’t take a bold stance on redefining ‘demons’, and why people like Roy’s Dad might conflate something that empowers or emotionally supports girls and women as ‘demonic’.  I appreciate that ultimately Cajoleas is promoting the idea that you should feel secure within yourself and to be able to stand on your own, but I think that this message ultimately undercuts the positive female friendship message that I was hoping we would get from it.

While it didn’t QUITE live up to my expectations, “The Good Demon” was a fast and fun read, and it’s absolutely one that dark fantasy and horror fans should pick up during the upcoming spooky season. And I have good news, because it’s your chance to own this new dark fantasy novel! We’re giving away the print ARC of “The Good Demon”! This giveaway is open to U.S. Residents only, other terms and conditions are within the giveaway information in the link below.

Enter the Giveaway Here!

Rating 7: An interesting take on the possession/exorcism story with an interesting protagonist, “The Good Demon” deconstructs common tropes to a point, but falls a little short in it’s deconstruction by the end.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Good Demon” is coming out on Tuesday, September 18th, and isn’t on many relevant Goodreads lists yet. That said, I think it would fit in on “Demons, Mystics, and Black Magic”, and “Small Towns and Secrets”.

Find “The Good Demon” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Pieces of Her”

35887251Book: “Pieces of Her” by Karin Slaughter

Publishing Info: William Morrow, August 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: The publisher sent me a hardcover copy.

Book Description: What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all…?

Andrea knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them…

Review: I want to extend a special thanks to William Morrow for sending me a copy of this book!

This may be surprising to some of you out there, but until I was given “Pieces of Her” I had never actually read a book by Karin Slaughter. Given that she’s such a prolific thriller and mystery author it’s a bit strange, and yet while I’d certainly heard of her I just never picked her up. But when William Morrow asked if I would be interested in reading this book, I said sure, and decided to give her a whirl, finally! And while I went in not knowing what to expect, I ended up really enjoying “Pieces of Her”.

The first thing that struck me about “Pieces of Her” was that I was going to be getting two separate stories, even if I didn’t realize that at first. The first narrative is that of Andy, a thirty one year old woman who has found herself drifting in life (as so many people around my age have, thanks in part to the Great Recession that slammed us right when we were set to be starting or ending college). She loves her mother Laura, who has always been a caring and devoted parent to her. But when Laura becomes famous for interfering in an act of violence and killing a killer, Andy sees a side of her mother that she never knew existed. For many people there is that one moment that you realize that your parent is a person beyond just being your parent, and Andy’s moment turns into a very engrossing journey. We follow Andy as she tries to piece together who Laura was before she had Andy, and why she seems to be comfortable with violence and destruction. This mystery is intriguing and the journey Andy takes kept me interested. But what was even more interesting was the story of Laura’s past, which is told as well through her own chapters and sections. These were even more fascinating, as we got to watch Laura face harrowing and upsetting circumstances (which I don’t particularly want to spoil here, as it was far more fun slowly watching it all come to fruition), and see how she moved from her experiences there to the picture perfect, but not really perfect, parent that she was in Andy’s eyes. Seeing their relationship evolve because of these revelations was also very neat, just as watching the story as a whole unfold and come together was very gripping. Slaughter is clearly a pro at devising a cohesive and intricate plot.

I also really enjoyed the various societal themes that Slaughter discusses in this book, specifically how our culture tends to gloss over or perpetuate violence towards women due to toxic masculinity and toxic men. There are multiple severe and relevant moments of violence in this book that target women, targeted by men who are entitled, who are angry, or who have been victims of societal standards of masculinity and therein take their pain and turn it against others. It’s no coincidence that the act of violence that sparks the entire story is perpetrated by a teenager who killed his ex girlfriend and her mother because said girlfriend dumped him. It’s no coincidence that a character who makes a pivotal decision in the past timeline was a victim of violence at the hands of her husband, who killed their children and himself. Other women in this book have had various abuses thrown at them by men, and it shapes them and drives them to do various things, some good, some bad. This is very much a book about how our culture can hurt and fail those who are vulnerable, and I greatly appreciated that Slaughter was willing to do a deep dive into some psychological darkness. It made the story that much richer, and made it feel that much more real.

“Pieces of Her” was a book that I ended up greatly enjoying. I’m sure that Karin Slaughter fans will find a lot to like, but I think that fans of thrillers who haven’t sought her out would find it to be an entertaining read.

Rating 8: A well plotted out and engrossing thriller/mystery that addresses hidden pasts, violence towards women, and the relationship between mothers and daughters.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Pieces of Her” is still fairly new and not on many relevant or specific Goodreads lists, but I think that it would fit in on “Witness Protection, New Identities, People in Hiding”, and “Bonds Between Mother’s and Daughters”.

Find “Pieces of Her” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Sadie”

34810320Book: “Sadie” by Courtney Summers

Publishing Info: Wednesday Books, September 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water. 

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Review: I want to thank NetGalley for sending me an ARC of this novel!

I fully admit to being a huge fan of true crime, even though I sometimes have a hard time reconciling the sometimes inevitably exploitative nature of it. Even if books, TV shows, podcasts, and the like do raise awareness when it comes to various crimes, especially murder, it also turns other people’s potential pain into entertainment to make money off of. I’m no role model, as I ultimately consume SO MUCH true crime stuff it borders on the obsessive. But it isn’t lost on me that there is something dark and a bit voyeuristic about listening to and reading stories about murder. So I knew that “Sadie” by Courtney Summers was going to be, at the very least, an interesting read. What I didn’t know was that it was going to be a phenomenal one.

I first want to start with how the narrative is laid out. There are two alternating storylines that we are following: There is the transcript of the podcast “The Girls”, hosted by a well meaning man named West McCray, and then there is the first person perspective of Sadie herself, as she goes on her lonely mission to hunt down the man that she thinks killed her sister Mattie. The podcast transcript feels very much like other breakaway true crime podcasts that involve an investigative elements like “Serial” or “S-Town”, as West is tracking down Sadie in ‘real time’ and finding his narrative as he goes. Given that I love these kinds of podcasts, I knew that I was going to be picky as hell with how Summers did it, but she pulls it off in spite of the fact a podcast is, in itself, an audio experience. But ultimately, West doesn’t have all of the pieces of the puzzle, so for much of the time we are a couple steps ahead of him. We get to see him slowly piece Sadie’s actions together, and see how he could frame the story in a way that can have many themes that his audience would take interest in: poverty, addiction, violence towards women, and familial loyalty all play a part in “The Girls” as West interviews and gets to know the people in Sadie’s life and those that she interacts with. Audience members (aka the reader) can see the big picture that came together to impact Sadie and Mattie’s life, and West gets to remain detached as well as interested, controlling the narrative as best he can and guiding his audience to feel sympathy for Sadie and the culture (poverty stricken and forgotten) that she comes from, while still maintaining the safety and comfort of their own lives.

Sadie, on the other hand, does not have that luxury. Her parts of the story are dark, grim, and filled with despair as this nineteen year old is trying to hunt down the man she thinks killed the only person in the world she loved with all of her heart. Sadie doesn’t care that their mother, Claire, is a victim of a society that gives little to no support to single mothers who live in poverty and with addiction. Sadie doesn’t care that she herself has been victimized by society that is steeped in misogyny and makes victims out of women of all ages. Sadie just knows that Mattie is dead, and that she is going to kill the man she believes did it. Sadie’s story is at times so hard to read because Summers doesn’t sugar coat or gloss over the violence and hardships that she encounters, but that makes it all the stronger. While West makes Sadie’s story a commodity, we SEE her story, and we see how bad it is. While West certainly has his heart in the right place, you can see the exploitation at the heart of it because you see everything Sadie goes through in her own words. But then Sadie is also unreliable in her own ways, and sometimes what she says doesn’t necessarily line up with later revealed realities. The ways that the two narratives serve to both confirm and also upend each other never ceased to catch me off guard, and I liked that it also emphasized the various struggles that victims of domestic violence face when their abusers can hide behind a mask and trick even those closest to the victims.

I’ve labeled this as a mystery, as it SORT of is (between who killed Mattie and what happened to Sadie), but ultimately the mystery isn’t the point of this story. The point is female rage, and Summers does a masterful job of keeping it grounded in reality and never treading towards melodrama or overcompensating. Too often with YA books do we see authors feeling a need to spell everything out, or take things to extremes that feel unrealistic. Everything in “Sadie” feels real, and because of that it kicks you in the guy repeatedly, and doesn’t try to placate to the need for a happy ending or absolute closure. I really hope that this book gets noticed by readers, because it is easily one of the best YA novels I’ve read in recent memory.

“Sadie” is another perfect example of why adults shouldn’t turn their nose up at YA, just as it is a perfect example of a YA author trusting her audience. This is a book that is going to stay with me for a long time, and I cannot recommend it enough for it’s relevance and it’s power. Go read it.

Rating 10: A gut wrenching and engrossing novel that cuts to the bone, “Sadie” is a story about victimization, revenge, and how the lines can blur between investigative journalism, entertainment, and advocacy.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Sadie” is included on the Goodreads lists “YA Missing Persons”, and “If You Love Veronica Mars…- YA Books”.

Find “Sadie” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Confession”

2870109Book: “The Confession” (Fear Street #38) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1996

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Five close friends…one murderer.

All Julie’s friends hated Al. They all wished Al were dead. But that doesn’t mean one of them killed him. Julie knows her friends. She knows they are innocent…

Until one of them confesses.

Julie and her friends promise to keep the killer’s secret. After all, they know he would never kill again.

Or would he?

Had I Read This Before: No

The Plot: We meet Julie, our first person narrator, and she immediately starts waxing philosophical about what you would do if a friend of yours confessed to killing someone? Would you call the police? Tell his parents? Try to convince him to tell his parents? Tell your OWN parents? Or keep his secret? After all, at seventeen she thought she knew all the answers, but now, she sees the world is a bit more nuanced than that (and Julie, if you had seen ALL Twitter takes on the day of John McCain’s funeral, you’d realize that adults ALSO have a terrible time with nuance, so don’t get excited for knowledge with age). We then jump back in time to May, when it all began. Julie was hanging out with her friends Hillary Walker (intense, kind, smart) and Taylor Snook (new girl, cultured, a total bitch) at Julie’a house, sitting around the table drinking Mountain Dew, eating chips, and gossiping about boys. There’s Vincent, another member of their friend group, whom Julie has a HUGE crush on, and has for a long time… But that’s another story, she says. Then there’s Sandy, another friend who is a bit quiet and geeky, but whom Taylor has been dating (which is why they are friends with Taylor now). No one knows why Taylor likes him so much, but apparently that TOO is another story, and I get the feeling that they are going to be stories within this story. Then the final cog in this friendship machine, Al Freed, barges into the house and starts irritating all of them. Al USED to be friends with them, but then he started dressing in black and hanging out with some “hard dudes” from Waynesbridge (NOOOOO), who drink beer and cause trouble. Hell, he even brought a beer to her house! He starts berating Julie for twenty dollars, and when she says no he threatens to tell her Mom that he saw her smoking at the mall that past weekend. This is especially bad because Julie promised her Mom she’d never smoke in high school again, and her Mom bribed her with a thousand dollar reward if she kept that promise (DAMN, are we in North Hills?!). Apparently she gave him twenty dollars previously to not tell. He threatens to burn a hole in the table with his cigarette unless she coughs up the money, and when Hillary speaks up he threatens to tell the world that she cheated on an exam (an exam HE gave her the answers to, mind you) unless SHE gives him twenty bucks, and she hands it over. UMMMM, honestly girls, if this kid has such a bad reputation, why not just say that he’s lying? Do you think people would believe that kid who dresses in black and hangs out with those hard dudes from Waynesbridge of all places? As Al is leaving Julie’s Mom comes home and finds Al’s beer can in the sink and finds his cigarette on the floor, and so she grounds Julie on the spot, which means Julie can’t go to a hot party. This seems a bit unfair on her Mom’s part, since Al is out of control and Julie doesn’t seem to be able to control if he walks in and out of her own home, but oh well.

According the Hillary the party was amazing, much to Julie’s chagrin. A week later, though, as they are meeting their friends at Sandy’s house after school, Hillary is telling Julie that Taylor was being very cruel to Sandy during said party, barely paying him any attention as he fetched her drinks, and making out with other boys when he wasn’t looking. Hillary’s afraid that Sandy is going to get hurt, but Julie still thinks that they make a good couple (?????), and thinks that Hillary is jealous. They go to Sandy’s house, and Hillary confesses that she lent Al her car because she’s afraid he’ll tell about the chemistry exam, and Julie agrees that they’re in the same, blackmail-y boat. But honestly, Al is doing this like a chump, he should have taken tips from Adam from “The Cheater”, oh, but wait, that creep is dead, rightfully so. Julie says that he’ll eventually get bored with blackmailing them, and listen Julie, that’s not how blackmail tends to work. Sandy lets the girls into his home and asks them if they heard about Al, and Taylor tells them that Al was suspended! Apparently he picked a fight with one of the school wrestlers, and lost. Vincent says that if Al’s gonna mess up someone’s life it may as well be his own. As everyone is basking in Al’s downfall, Taylor (who oddly had time to change clothes, according to Julie) asks why they ever hung out with Al, and then proclaims she’s hungry, so Sandy hops to it to get her some chips and salsa (though he can’t open the lid, and Hillary has to do it. Instead of her just being naturally stronger we find out her Dad has a LOT of work out equipment in the basement). Then there is a pounding on the door, and Al is demanding that they let him in. He’s also super drunk (or ‘skunked’, or ‘totaled’, as the slang is here), and throwing himself against the door. Instead of calling the cops on his violent and drunk ass, Sandy lets him in. He goes straight for the fridge, and starts looking for more beer. Sandy tells him to stop, but Al goes on on all of them, asking why they think they’re better than him, and saying that Taylor only pretends to like them. Sandy tries to get him to leave the fridge, but Al starts roughing him up. Luckily, Hillary is ready for a fight, and SHE is the one to knock some sense into him. Al, drunk and humiliated, leaves.

Al is suspended for two weeks, and Julie is happy that she doesn’t have to see him in the halls. She’s meeting Vincent at his house to work on a chemistry project, sporting a cute new outfit, but Vincent is too wigged out to notice. He tells her that he lent Al his mom’s car, because he’d taken the car out that previous Saturday night without permission, and got a speeding ticket! And who had seen the whole thing go down? Al. And Al threatened to tell. Now he’s late bringing the car back. And when he DOES bring it back, it has been crunched up in the front! Al says that it wasn’t his fault, he didn’t see the stop sign because of the leaves on a tree! Vincent snaps, and attacks Al, and after Julie pulls him off Al runs away.

Later that week Julie calls Vincent to see if he’s going to the Roller Rink, as he’s a goof on skates. I totally, totally get why Julie has a crush on this kid, the descriptions that Stine gives him make him sound like the most appealing guy that he’s ever created. Gangly, kind, funny, awkward, I love Vincent as much as Julie does! Sadly, he can’t go, as he’s been grounded because of the car. Not only is he grounded, he has to work off the money it’s going to take to fix the car, and that means that he won’t be able to apply for his dream job this summer, which is, get this…. SUMMER CAMP COUNSELOR! He wants to help kids have fun this summer!!!

giphy
High school Kate would have been in love with this kid! (source)

Julie and Vincent are both bummed out that he can’t go, and Julie says goodbye. When her other friends pick her up, she relays what happened. Hillary and Taylor are infuriated, but Sandy is oddly quiet… They get to the roller rink, and Sandy is doting over Taylor and her skates because she can’t figure out how to lace them (seriously?), and Julie is further saddened that Vincent isn’t there because he would have made a funny joke about it. They skate awhile, but eventually the group tapers off; Taylor and Sandy go off somewhere after making out, and then Hillary runs into some friends from Waynesbridge (who AREN’T hard dues, I assume), so Julie decides to skate awhile longer before bussing home. She cuts out through the back alley, as it’s a shortcut to the bus stop, but when she gets out there she sees Al. And someone has strangled him with rollerblade laces, AND shoved a rollerblade INTO HIS MOUTH!!! Julie freaks out, and as she’s standing over his body some shrimpy brats she used to babysit for see her and scream that she must have killed him!

Well the police don’t think she did, of course, but they still have to question her at the station. The lead detective doesn’t understand why Al was murdered, as he doesn’t see a motive as he wasn’t robbed. When he asks Julie if Al carried large sums of money that could have gone missing, she tells him no, he was always bugging her for cash (her parents are there, rightfully so, and they are surprised by this revelation). The detective asks her who might have had a grudge against Al, Julie DOES bring up the Waynesbridge creeps he’s been hanging out with (good, good), but then also says that Al was irritating to ALL of her friends (BAD, BAD).

At the funeral there are lots of rumors swirling around, and Julie is certain that none of her friends could have done it. Afterwards, the friends all go back to Sandy’s house to try and relax, have time together, blah blah blah. Vincent offers to get everyone sodas from the kitchen, and Julie follows him. He asks her how SHE is doing, since she was the one who found the horrifically brutalized body, but before she can really get into it Sandy calls everyone into the living room. Once everyone has gathered, he says that he has something to tell them: he’s the one who killed Al! Taylor starts to scream, insisting it isn’t true, but he says that it is. Hillary is mad that he told them, because now he’s involved all of them in it, and Hillary, if Vincent is the nicest coolest boy Stine has ever written, you are probably the most pragmatic and excellent girl! Sandy is pissed that she’s pissed because he did it ESPECIALLY for her, he says, and points out that they ALL hated Al and he did them a favor! Hillary says that now they are obligated to tell on him, and Taylor says NO WAY, and Julie tends to agree with Taylor, because Sandy is their FRIEND, and his life shouldn’t be ruined over this. Because HEY, if you murder someone you don’t LIKE, it’s TOTALLY okay, right?

giphy1
Detective Tutuola would like a word… (source)

Julie is having nightmares about Sandy now, and at graduation rehearsal she tells Hillary that she’s having second thoughts, and wishes that he hadn’t told them at all. Hillary agrees, as she feels especially bad because Sandy thought he was doing it for HER. They then realize that Taylor was watching them, and as she walks away they wonder if she heard them expressing their doubts. As they are walking back to Julie’s they are paranoid that someone is following them, but they don’t see anyone. What they DO see, however, is the police cruiser in Julie’s driveway, and it’s Officer Reed, the detective to questioned her the night she found Al’s body. Julie wants to run, but she and Hillary walk up to the door calmly. Julie, having no chill, blurts out that her parents AREN’T HOME, even though they totally are. Officer Reed says that he has a couple more questions for her. And then her Mom pops her head out the door, so there is no excuse not to have him question them. He runs some names by Julie and Hillary, but the girls pretty much remain clamped up, even though they WANT to confess. Eventually he leaves, and the girls look out the window and see SANDY HIDING BEHIND A TREE! Was he the one following them earlier?! They try to confront him, but he runs away before they can.

Later that week Sandy is still acting funny. He and Vincent get into a huge fight, and Julie is convinced that they will never look at Sandy the same way again because of what he did. That Saturday Hillary and Julie are going to go to the new Jude Law movie (though I hear tell in the original printing it was Keanu Reeves, which has funnily enough become more plausible again!), and Julie calls Vincent to see if he wants to come, He says that he can’t, and Julie is sad that their group is falling apart! She gets to the theater a little late, but Hillary has her ticket ready to go. Julie tells her to save her a seat, she wants to stop at the bathroom. She then bumps into Taylor, who starts to berate her for being such a bad friend, because Sandy is NOT a killer and he’s hurt that Julie has turned her back on him. Julie asks Taylor if she overheard what she and Hillary were saying at graduation rehearsal, and if she told Sandy. Taylor denies it, but Julie doesn’t believe her.

After another graduation rehearsal, Julie gets home late, and when she gets out of her car and closes the garage door, she sees someone duck under and inside. It’s Sandy. He asks her why she’s been talking to the police. She says that Officer Reed just showed up, and why was he following her? He says he just happened to be in the neighborhood, but Julie calls out that blatant lie. She says she thinks the police are close to solving it, and he freaks out on her, saying not to believe that. He then says he wants things to go back to how they were, and that he’s having a pre-graduation party at his house that next Friday, and that she better come, or else. When Julie confides in Hillary about it the next day, Hillary says that he threatened her too. They deign NOT to sit with Sandy and Taylor at lunch, and Vincent sits with them, saying that he was threatened by Sandy as well. Sandy and Taylor stare menacingly at them the entire time, which no doubt makes for an awkward meal.

Taylor confronts Julie and Hillary again, and this time she and Hillary come to fisticuffs. The fight ends with Taylor vomiting all over the place (why?!), and Hillary getting scratches on her neck. They never thought that Taylor cared about Sandy so much, but Hillary says that she’s done, and she’s going to tell the police everything. Julie tries to convince her that Sandy’s life will be ruined, but Hillary shuts that shit down. She points out that Sandy didn’t HAVE to confess to them, but he did because he wanted them to admire him for it, and because he wanted to impress Taylor. Julie says that he won’t kill again, but Hillary isn’t convinced, given his new predilection for threatening them. Hillary thinks on it a bit, but then says that she wants to talk to Sandy before she goes to the cops, and asks Julie to drop her off at his house. Julie obeys (ARE YOU NUTS?), and Hillary tells her to go home, she will call as soon as she is done. Julie is tempted to wait for her, but decides to do as she’s told.

Julie waits impatiently for Hillary to call, and gets even more nervous when Hillary’s mom calls asking her if she’s seen Hillary. Julie says no, and they hang up. She is now convinced that Sandy did something to Hillary. But Hillary does call a few hours later. And when she does, she has her own confession. SHE KILLED SANDY!

Julie drives to Hillary’s house, and when she gets there she finds Taylor and Vincent are there as well. Hillary tells Julie that she hasn’t told them yet, and then has them all gather so she can tell them everything. As soon as he confesses, Taylor loses it. Hillary says that she went to confront Sandy, and he attacked her. She hit him with a sculpture in self defense, and it killed him. She says that she’s going to turn herself in now. Taylor screams at Hillary asking her why Sandy had to die? Because Sandy didn’t kill Al!! TAYLOR DID!!! Because she had been going out with Al BEHIND SANDY’S BACK! And apparently she stole some money from her parents to give to him, and he started blackmailing her over it. They got in a fight behind the skating rink, and he got rough with her, which made her snap. She ran to Sandy, and he said that he would confess for her. So now she’s enraged that Hillary killed an innocent man!! But wait, what’s that? A ring of the doorbell? Who could it be? When Hillary opens the door, it’s SANDY!!!!!! When Hillary confronted him that afternoon, it wasn’t about going to the police, it was because she’d figured out that he was covering for Taylor!! And they thought that the best way to get Taylor to confess was to fake his death!

giphy2
(source)

A couple weeks later, Vincent and Julie are walking home. He then says he has a confession to make: he’s had a crush on her since they were in third grade. Julie screams with glee. The End.

giphy3
Not bad, Stine! Not bad! (source)

Body Count: 1. And no one was sad.

Romance Rating: I mean, it averages out to a 5. Julie and Vincent are adorable when they finally get together, so those marks are high. But Sandy willingly throwing himself under the bus for Taylor were low marks to be sure.

Bonkers Rating: 4. It wasn’t totally crazy, outside of a rollerblade shoved into Al’s mouth, because OUCH.

Fear Street Relevance: 2. Julie lives there, but this fact is thrown in haphazardly near the end of the novel.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“The next night – Friday Night – I killed him.”

… Except no she didn’t, and she explains

“Well, SOME people thought I killed Al…  But of course I didn’t.”

Oh fuck yourself, Julie.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Well for one thing, look at that RAD ROLLERBLADING ENSEMBLE on the original cover! For another, Julie says that her Mom says that she looks like Demi Moore.

Best Quote:

“‘Why’d they suspend him?’

Vincent grinned at us. ‘Al rolled up his English term paper and smoked it in front of Mrs. Hirsch.’

Hillary and I both gasped. ‘You’re kidding!’ I cried.

Vincent’s grin grew wider. ‘Yeah. I’m kidding. He got into a fight.'”

Vincent is the best.

Conclusion: “The Confession” was actually pretty okay!! I kind of figured out the ending but I loved the way that it was executed, and I liked the characters in this one more than I have in other “Fear Street” books. Next up is “The Boy Next Door”!

 

 

Kate’s Review: “Supergirl: Being Super”

35531016Book: “Supergirl: Being Super” by Mariko Tamaki, Joelle Jones (Ill).

Publishing Info: DC Comics, June 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: She’s super-strong. She can fly. She crash-landed on Earth in a rocket ship. But for Kara Danvers, winning the next track meet, celebrating her 16th birthday and surviving her latest mega-zit are her top concerns. And with the help of her best friends and her kinda-infuriating-but-totally-loving adoptive parents, she just might be able to put her troubling dreams–shattered glimpses of another world–behind her.

Until an earthquake shatters her small town of Midvale…and uncovers secrets about her past she thought would always stay buried.

Now Kara’s incredible powers are kicking into high gear, and people she trusted are revealing creepy ulterior motives. The time has come for her to choose between the world where she was born and the only world she’s ever known. Will she find a way to save her town and be super, or will she crash and burn?

Caldecott Honor and Eisner Award-winning writer Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer) and Eisner Award-nominated artist Joëlle Jones (Lady Killer) combine forces for this incredible coming-of-age tale! This is the Girl of Steel as you’ve never seen her before.

Review: Kara Danvers, aka Supergirl, has recently had something of a pop culture renaissance. The success of the CW show “Supergirl” has had a huge hand in that, as it has brought Kara to the forefront for the past few years. I enjoy “Supergirl” for the most part, and I think that it does do Kara justice, but what we didn’t get from that show was Supergirl’s teenage years, instead putting her solidly in her early twenties when it began. I think that part of the appeal of Supergirl initially was that she is a teenager, and therefore has the usual trials and tribulations that a teenage girl would have (though back when she was first created a lot of that was steeped in sexism of the time). So while I’ve enjoyed the TV version of Kara, and the “Bombshells” version of her as well, I was really hoping to get a new take on a teenage Kara eventually. And my hopes were answered thanks to Eisner Award Winner Mariko Tamaki, who wrote the mini series “Supergirl: Being Super”.

giphy4
Exactly. (source)

Mariko Tamaki has been at the graphic novel game for awhile, with one of her more notable books being “This One Summer”. This story is about early teenage girls spending the summer at a cabin, and focuses on coming of age themes as well as learning about some sad truths about the world. It’s a quiet and emotional story, and therefore Tamaki is the perfect person to helm a Supergirl origin story. This version of Kara has loving family and good friends, but her powers have been kept secret from most people in her life. While she understands why they need to be kept secret, we’re told in bits and pieces the cost of hiding her identity from those around her has had in her life. Life is hard enough when you’re a teenager trying to find yourself, it’s even harder when you don’t know where you came from, you don’t know why you are the way you are, and you have to keep it inside. Much like “This One Summer”, “Supergirl: Being Super” has a lot of heartbreaking and poignant themes and moments, with Kara going through loss and and identity crisis at the heart of the story. After a horrific trauma happens to her and the rest of the town, and someone close to her dies, Kara begins to spiral. The pain that she is going through, as well as seeing her parents trying to help her get through it while letting her know her pain is valid and real, led to many a teary eyed moment as I read this book. Kara is flawed and angsty, but she is also bright and friendly and very real, and I loved the arc that she followed in this story.

Tamaki also created a lovely cast of characters to be in Kara’s life. From her parents to her mentors and her friends, the supporting characters are all well rounded and add depth and vibrancy to the story. The two who I would argue are the most important are her two best friends, Liz and Dolly. They are all on the track team together, and their conversations and interactions were all very true to life and familiar to me, as someone who was a teenage girl once. Additionally, I liked that while they are all best friends with similar interests, they are also pretty different as well, having their own unique personalities that contribute different things. And even the antagonists in this book (and there are a few) are so well structured and characterized that the reader can see where they are coming from, and why they do the things that they do, even if they are ultimately terrible things.

And do not worry. Krypton plays a large role in this story too, even if Kara is well beyond her time on that doomed planet. It isn’t a Superman or Supergirl story unless Krypton is involved, and Tamaki made it feel fresh and original.

The artwork is done by Joelle Jones, who I have reviewed here for her “Ladykiller” series. I love Jones’s artwork and style, and I think that she brings such vibrant detail to these characters, as well as making them all so original and unique.

161229064415ar14_10
(source)

I cannot recommend “Supergirl: Being Super” enough. I love the story that Tamaki and Jones have given Kara, and while I know that there are no official plans for Tamaki to continue the story I am holding out hope that DC will beg her to come back and give us more.

Rating 9: A wonderful and fresh origin story for Supergirl, “Supergirl: Being Super” is a great story for fans of Supergirl of all ages.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Supergirl: Being Super” is (maddeningly) not included on many Goodreads lists, but I think that it would fit in on “Comics and Graphic Novels by Women”, and “Comics for Teen Girls (that are not Japanese Manga)”.

Find “Supergirl: Being Super” at your library using WorldCat!