Saturday, December 12, 2015

Daughters Unto Devils

Amanda Verner has a secret: she's in love. Every month she's been meeting a post boy in the woods for secluded trysts. Just as her family is about to move away, she finds out she's pregnant. Full of dreams of escape and running away together, she eagerly tells her love who rejects her. Now she's stuck moving to some unknown place with her family, waiting for them to notice that she's with child. This is all after the most horrific winter ever when her pregnant mother caught a fever that took away the child's sight and hearing after a long, difficult pregnancy. The constantly screaming baby made the cabin insufferable to live in and Amanda found herself wishing it would just die. Then she swore she saw the devil and other horrible visions. Her family doesn't talk about it at all, but she knows what she saw. Hopefully this new place will be a fresh start for her family. Their hopes are high until they finally arrive and the cabin is doused in blood as if a cow was slaughtered inside.

Daughters Unto Devils is an unexpected book especially from Harlequin Teen. Two aspects really shined: the portrayal of teen sexuality and the horror. Amanda has a sexual relationship with the post boy. It's not glossed over or implied, but frankly described. She talks about her pleasurable thoughts and both physical and emotional feelings during the act. I especially appreciated this portrayal because even though romance is a big aspect in teen fiction, female sexuality is typically not frankly discussed or described. If teen books do have sex, a fadeout or broad euphemisms are used like it's some sort of Hays Code film. Teen girls have sexual thoughts and feelings. Not writing about it doesn't make them go away. It's nice to see authors unafraid of alienating parents who want to shelter teens. This is a real part of girls' lives and they deserve to see that aspect reflected in the fiction they read. Female sexuality in general is still a mystery to a lot of people because of how society treats it as a taboo or only acceptable as male fantasy and/or as a commodity. There are consequences to her sexual activity, but it's blissfully unrelated to any of the horror aspects that come afterwards. I'm glad the novel poses realistic consequences instead of

The horror aspects of the book are well done and insidious. It starts out as small mentions of Amanda's vision from last winter. No one talks about it and they quickly change the subject if it's brought up. Once they move from the mountain to the prairie, the creepy aspects increase exponentially. You'd think a cabin where something horrific obviously happened would scare them away, but in true horror movie fashion they try to make the best of it. I liked the suspense and the build up, but the big moment was a bit underwhelming. I also like the ambiguity of the situation: is it all in her head or is she really being haunted/possessed? I didn't like that this ambiguity is all but destroyed by the finale and the ending simply seemed pointless.

Daughters Unto Devils does a great job with the female protagonist, but most of the other characters are flat and don't seem to have a real connection to her. Why bother having so many children if they aren't going to be significant to the story in any way? Other than that, the story was creepy and suspenseful up to a point and was really gruesome at times. I always appreciate that. The ending was disappointing and pointless. The novel wasn't perfect, but I enjoyed the experience.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins

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