Content Warning: Alcoholism, child/spousal abuse, death of a parent, some gore, and strong language
Mature High School
Seven years ago, Cordelia Scott sold her soul to a demon in exchange for getting rid of her abusive father. Which is extra awkward because she doesn’t remember it: part of the bargain was to erase the memory. Ever since, life has been as normal as it can be. She is stage managing the school play, pining over her best friend Veronica, and failing one too many pop quizzes.
But the past can’t stay buried forever, and it inconveniently comes back to haunt her when her school guidance counselor, Fred, reveals that he’s the same demon she sold her soul to all those years ago. This is hard to believe. He’s wearing a graphic tee and is surrounded by motivational posters, but when he summons the flames of hell in his office, Cordelia can’t really argue. To make matters worse, he’s here to make another bargain: help him with a “little” demonic problem of his own, or she’s doomed to spend eternity in hell with her father. All she has to do is help Fred neutralize a rival by imprisoning him in a Maleficent figurine. And, if she doesn’t, said rival will destroy the world with Demon Capitalism.
The story summary piqued my interest with ‘sold her soul to a demon’ and had me at ‘Maleficent figurine.’
Making a deal with a demon and selling your soul is a strange act. Is anything really worth selling your soul for? In Cordelia’s case? Maybe. Getting rid of an abusive father seems like a pretty justifiable reason to make a deal with a demon. It may seem drastic, but since no one believed that her father was abusing her, the police wouldn’t do anything to help her, and she was only ten years old at the time. Cordelia didn’t have many options.
The subject of abuse is so messed up. Usually, I avoid books featuring abuse, but I made an exception here. 55% of the story is Cordelia confronting her demons, a.k.a. the abuse caused by her father, and the guilt she feels about summoning a demon to kill him and sending him to hell. I can understand Cordelia feeling guilty for summoning a demon to kill her father. Even though he beat her and tried to kill her, he was still her father. But in my opinion, she shouldn’t feel that guilty about sending him to hell. The guy was abusing his wife and daughter. He was already going to hell. Cordelia just sped up the process.
Fred the demon is my favorite kind of demon. The kind who isn’t that bad of a guy and has a soft spot for humanity. Like Michael from the show The Good Place or Luci from the Netflix series Disenchantment. At first, I thought he was going to be like Beetlejuice, chaotic and goofy. But he was more of a sarcastic, grumpy, humorous mentor sort of guy.
The character I found the most intriguing was Dustin. At first, he seems like the typical rich white boy you see in every teen book. But he turned out to be more than an over-used stereotype and ended up being a well-rounded, funny character.
I listened to the 11-hour audiobook, and the narrator over-enunciated almost every word. It was like they were shouting the entire time. It worked on some level. Overall, it was a bold choice.
When I first read the book’s summary, I didn’t know the story would contain Filipino folklore. I didn’t find out until I read over the featured authors attending the Liwanag Lit Fest, an event I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in. I was surprised to see Alex Brown and her book on the list. I was even more incentivized to read this book so I could talk to Alex Brown about it.
There were a lot of authors present at the Liwanag Lit Fest and not much time for talking, but I did manage to ask the one question I needed an answer to.
How did you decide the vesicle that would trap the demon would be a Precious Moments Maleficent figurine?
She said that she thought, “What would be the silliest thing to trap a demon in.” She thought about a Funko figurine but then thought, “What’s funnier than that?” The answer was a Precious Moments figurine.
If you want to read a humorous horror story featuring depictions of hell and demons with a bit of Filipino folklore woven into it, I highly recommend this book.