Hey kiddos! You like demonic possession? Religious paranoia? How about absolutely kick-ass book covers? Good, me too. I’d like to introduce you to The Merciless series by Danielle Vega.
Sofia Flores is the new girl in a tiny southern town. Sadly, this isn’t anything new since she moves around a lot. Her mom is the army. So now the two are settled here with Grandma after she suffered a stroke. Sofia finds herself torn between two “groups” of potential BFF’s. There’s Brooklyn, the punky rebel on one hand. And the super Christian cool girls lead by Riley on the other. Before she knows it, Sofia is sucked into a CREEPY-ASS plan to kidnap Brooklyn and exorcise her of the demon Riley is certain is possessing her. A violent, bloody plot of torture ensues.
This may have been the most graphic young adult novel I’ve ever read. And of course, I was LIVING for it. I knew right away that this was the start of a beautiful friendship between writer Danielle Vega and I. If my description has at all peaked your interest, go read the book right now. Then come back to read my spoilers for this story and the sequel.
This book may not be everyone’s brand of vodka. But it sure was mine. I don’t discriminate in my horror literature. Adult or YA, I just want a good, dark, evil, scary, or twisted read. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure who to believe while I was enjoying this book. Riley and her cohorts do some TRULY weird and tortuous stuff to Brooklyn. But she/they feel justified in trying to save the girl’s soul and keep evil from the world! And it turns out, they were right!! Brooklyn does a masterful job of convincing Sofia (and us the reader) that these sweet girls are crazy. I’ll admit I went back and forth a couple of times trying to decide who was really right. But I ultimately thought Riley & crew were just caught up in religious fervor. Clearly, I was wrong. The book ends with all her friends dead, and Brooklyn telling Sofia she’s a demon too. Turns out Sofia did take a life once. She pushed a mean girl in front of train. Yeah, a train. That’s pretty messed up. Sofia does seem to regret her actions, but you can’t outrun the devil.
I owe every one an honest opinion, so I’m gonna give it to you straight up. I didn’t love this book as much as the first one. I truly liked it, but it didn’t keep me page turning like mad, which the original did. After some intense therapy, the grown-ups in her life convince Sofia the whole “demon” thing was just her way of coping with this traumatic event. Before you can blink, her mom is dead and Sofia is off to a conservative Catholic boarding school. There she meets some friends, and a new guy to crush on. She also starts hallucinating and slowly coming around to the fact that the whole ordeal was not fake, and Brooklyn not gone.
My favorite thing in this novel would have to be Gavin being a super creep. I didn’t see it coming. But damn. He lets the priest/principle flagellate him to atone for his sins, like on a regular basis. And that is just DARK. Then he goes after Sofia to save her. He’s not wrong, but he IS psychotic. I also like the bleak ending to the story. Sofia is now locked up in a metal health facility biding her time and embracing her demonic truth. I’m so happy Danielle Vega stuck to her guns as an author and pulled no punches. Demon stories should have a twisted ending. She’s got a reader in me for life.