First Lines: “You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand.” Freddie said this to me, when I was little. Everyone called my grandmother by her nickname, even my parents, because, as she put it, Freddie, short for Fredrikke was her name. Not Mother, or Grandmother. Just Freddie.
I bought this a while ago from a dollar store, which is actually where I can find some nice books to take to school. I just wanted to read this one first. How could I not, with a title like that?
Nothing ever happens in Violet’s hometown. Well, at least not until the day River West arrives and rents the guesthouse on Violet’s family’s estate. At first, Violet’s enchanted by this stranger…and then weird, grim things start happening in town. Then Violet begins to wonder who is this stranger she’s invited into her home? Is he just a liar or something worse? Violet’s grandmother used to warn her about the devil, but she never told Violet he’d be cute and want to kiss her. What’s a girl to do when the boy she loves may just be evil?
Like I said, I bought this for super cheap and let it languish on my shelves.
Maybe it should have just stayed there.
Look, I liked the premise. I liked the idea of having a devil-esque character come to a town and create chaos. I liked that Violet was the one who really had to determine what to do about it.
I just never counted on the characters being so vastly unlikable. And while I know that’s entirely my opinion and a number of people think this is actually a quality of fantastic writing, I am not of that mind. I was so uncomfortable with the characters and Violet’s decisions that I felt physically sick at times.
Here’s why. I got that River was this “bad boy” type and that that’s attractive at first. But River’s not your leather jacket-wearing, tattoo-sporting, breaking-curfew type of bad boy. He’s more like murder-your-neighbors-and-laugh-about-it dangerous. When he did things that were bad (and I’m talking legitimately morally, criminally, and violently wrong), he was completely unrepentant. Psychopathic unrepentant. It was frigging scary, especially considering we’re seeing that kind of evil on TV every week now.
The worst part? Violet kept making excuses for his behavior. Within the same conversation–and this is not an exaggeration–she would hate him and fear for her life and want him to leave, but then when he’d ask to hold her or whatever, she would agree. WHAT THE FUDGE, GIRLFRIEND? It was infuriating and it also made me feel sick. Having been in manipulative relationships before, this was a huge red flag.
The only thing I could think was that maybe the author was trying to show teens what addiction/emotionally abusive relationships look like, but that wasn’t addressed at all. (Addiction was, but from River’s perspective, which barely seemed to count.)
While I’m talking about characters, let’s talk about how unrealistic a number of them were. Besides Violet’s (and by extension, her twin brother Luke’s) lack of doing anything about the evil in their presence, the characters mostly act like they were all born in the 1940s. They watch Casablanca in the park (yes, even 12 year olds). They talk in ways that teenagers don’t talk, especially the 14 and under crowd. Violet and Luke, I let them have a little leeway because as you get older, sometimes you can be more in touch with the past. I certainly was. But there’s a 14 year old in the story who is the most utterly unrealistic character. Never in my life have I heard a 14 year old refer to anyone as “innocent as a day old colt” or use phrases like “morally ambiguous” with every other page referring to “whores.” It was unsettling, but also not something that an 8th grader would ever really be saying. (I teach 8th graders and most of what this kid said…most of my kids don’t even know what those words mean.)
And let’s face it, even factoring in the whole semi-magical Devil aspect of this story, the plot just seems completely unrealistic. Like no one in town is concerned about all of these awful things that are happening? Half of which would have made the national news? Also, parents that leave their children (even 17 year olds) alone for the better part of a year would wind up being arrested and the children put into protective services. They would not be able to live alone in a house with no money for food and with everyone in town knowing they were alone like that. Ugh. I just had a lot that didn’t sit right with me about this book.
So yeah, I didn’t particularly care for this book. I’m glad to be done with it.