Release Date: Aug. 23
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Age Group: Young Adult
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Rule #1: Do not show fear.
Rule #2: Do not show pity.
Rule #3: Do not engage.
Rule #4: Do not let your guard down.
Rule #5: They lie.
Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her mom, by the cute son of a local police sergeant, and by the eerie voices she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Unfortunately for Bridget, it turns out the voices are demons – and Bridget has the rare ability to banish them back to whatever hell they came from.
Terrified to tell people about her new power, Bridget confides in a local priest who enlists her help in increasingly dangerous cases of demonic possession. But just as she is starting to come to terms with her new power, Bridget receives a startling message from one of the demons. Now Bridget must unlock the secret to the demons' plan before someone close to her winds up dead – or worse, the human vessel of a demon king.
I do not watch horror films if I can help it. In fact, one of the only horror flicks I’ve ever made it through was The Exorcist and it terrified me like a little girl who is terrified of exorcisms. So, as I read the summary of Possess, I thought to myself, “What would possibly possess me to read a horror novel that sounds like the YA version of The Exorcist?” (You see what I did there?) In spite of my fears, I devoured Gretchen McNeil’s delightfully dark and twisty tale as fast as I could. Possess was creepy as all get out, but it was also sweet, hilarious, and entirely entertaining.
Bridget has the ability to hear and speak to demons as well as the power to send them packing from wherever they happen to be squatting. She somehow manages to come across as fierce and snarky while handling something that’s completely otherworldly, and that’s a big reason why I couldn’t put this book down. In many ways, Bridget reminded me of Buffy Summers—a teenage girl who wants nothing more than to be utterly ordinary but cannot help that she is all things extraordinary. Oh, and she’s a quipping machine which is also quite Buffy-like (or rather Joss Whedon-like).
The plot barrels forward at a perfect pace, rarely ever giving you a chance to catch your breath whether you’re holding it in fear, gasping with laughter, or sighing with romance. Like I said, I’m pretty much terrified by the entire idea of exorcisms, and this played into all of those fears, as well as a few more. At one point, Bridget has to exorcise an antique doll store, where the evil spirits have possessed the dolls to move and stare and speak in demonic voices. In other words, they are my nightmares. Aside from the scary scary dolls, there’s also the murder mystery to figure out. I couldn’t help thinking of Veronica Mars during much of this search, most especially when she questions alleged murderer of her father and super insane guy Milton Undermeyer.
Bridget’s relationship with Matt is a nice, subtle distraction from all the demonology. It’s clear from the moment he appears that Matt is all about the Bridge, but it is so much fun to watch Bridget realize her own feelings. Also, any boy who can confidently rock a purple tie, grey waistcoat and a matching grey fedora to a school dance instead of a suit is a-ok to me. Though Matt’s is my favorite, all of the relationships in this book felt so authentic. I loved any interaction we got with little brother Sammy, who could simultaneously seem younger and older than his proper age of 8 at any given moment, as well as best friend Hector. I haven’t heard a talk of any more books after this, but I certainly wouldn’t mind more time with these characters.
If you’re looking for a fast, well-paced, creepy fun story with a snarky heroine, I would definitely recommend Possess. Even with all of the things that made my scaredy-cat heart weep, I will read anything else Gretchen McNeil throws my way. Just, no more dolls. Please.