On “Devilish” by Maureen Johnson

Devilish
courtesy of goodreads.com

Maureen Johnson’s Devilish is just as delectable as its cover would imply. I devoured the book in a day. This strange story about selling one’s soul to the devil is perfect for the Halloween season if you have an open reading schedule during that time period. It’s so offbeat and readable, I have no doubt it will become a seasonal classic a few years down the line.

Devilish tells the story of a whip smart Catholic prep school student called Jane Jarvis who becomes concerned when her best friend Allison starts showing up to school with designer clothes, perfectly coiffed hair, and much more confidence than she used to. Turns out she’s sold her soul to the devil, who happens to be a new sophomore by the name of Lanalee Tremone.

Lanalee seems sweet as can be at first, boosting Allison’s confidence by choosing her as her big. But Jane soon finds out that Lanalee has trapped Allison into a binding contract in which she must hand over her soul in return for all that she’s received. This sets into motion a series of twisted events that comes to a head on Halloween night.

Johnson sets her novel in Providence, Rhode Island, which is the perfect backdrop for Satanic madness. Of course, the Salem witch trials make an honorable mention in the book, as well as the town’s unfortunate history of slavery, which blights its stunning New England beauty. The sinister underbelly of the town and Jane’s school translates beautifully to this strange, slightly humorous horror story. It would be amazing as a film; I imagine it as something similar to Jennifer’s Body.

As usual, Johnson masterfully constructs her characters, giving the reader people who are beautifully nuanced and kick-ass. Jane Jarvis has the perfect blend of self-assuredness and personal development that I can’t help but wonder where Johnson learned to write such perfect teenagers. She weaves the relationships between her characters like a fine web. Every detail falls into place effortlessly, and, as I read more and more of Johnson’s work, I can’t help but gape at how well she does what she does.

Alas, I wish there were a sequel to this book. I want to know what happens to Jane and Owen and Brother Thomas. Where are you with this one, Maureen?? I know there’s high demand for the Shades of London series, but I think Devilish could use another installment.

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