The Good Demon — Jimmy Cajoleas

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TITLE: The Good Demon
AUTHOR: Jimmy Cajoleas
RELEASES: September 18th, 2018; Amulet Books
GENRE: Horror
AGE RANGE: YA

SYNOPSIS: Clare has been miserable since her exorcism. The preacher that rid her of evil didn’t understand that her demon—simply known as Her—was like a sister to Clare. Now, Clare will do almost anything to get Her back. After a chance encounter with the son of the preacher who exorcised her, Clare goes on an adventure through the dark underbelly of her small Southern town, discovering its deep-seated occult roots. As she searches for Her, she must question the fine lines between good and evil, love and hate, and religion and free will. Vivid and sharp, The Good Demon tells the unusual story of friendship amid dark Gothic horror.

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As a life-long horror fan, possession stories have always been some of my favorites. There’s just something so classic and iconic about the idea of a child or teen being taken over by some sort of dark entity, and even though the trope is typically filled to the brim with religious overtones and misrepresentation of many belief sects, they’re just fun. When I heard about this story’s twist—that the girl wants to be possessed and mourns the loss of her demon—I knew I had to read it. I just had to!

She was just a voice inside my voice, a body inside my body, a spirit inside my spirit, my demon. When She spoke I heard Her in my blood, and when She moved I felt Her in my bones.

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Unfortunately, we’ve all heard the saying: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. While the synopsis behind this book caught my attention immediately, I was literally only a single chapter in when I realized that the subpar writing was going to ruin any chances I had of giving this book an excellent review. The narrative voice doesn’t read like a teen at all, and Clare’s internal monologue is so pretentious and angsty that it felt like I was reading some mid-2000s MySpace poetry. (Not in a good way. Is there a good way?)

I knew nothing could ever separate us, nothing could ever tear us apart. I was wrong.

On top of the narrative voice and the issues I had there, there’s another problem: if you’re a horror fan, you will predict every twist and turn this story has to offer. That said, if you don’t have much experience with horror (or, more specifically, possession and occult stories), then I think you could enjoy this a lot more than I did! I don’t lower my ratings for YA horror when it fails to impress me, because I know that I’ve been desensitized by much of the adult horror I read, but if I had, I think this would have been a 2-star read for me.

“It’s not weird,” he said. “It’s just different. Dad holds me and him to a higher standard than the rest of the world. Because we’re men of Christ.”

Next, there’s the topic of the religious representation, which was so all over the place. The picture the author has painted of Christians in this book is so over-the-top ridiculous and laughable that I was genuinely stunned to learn from the acknowledgements that Jimmy Cajoleas appears to be a Christian himself—because, seriously, the Christians in this book are terrible.

The solstice was when witches held black masses, or maybe the druids slaughtered a virgin or two.

Don’t get me wrong, though, it’s just fair treatment; the pagan and witchcraft representation in the story is downright gross. There are multiple comments and implications about all witches and/or pagans being dark, sinister, etc., and like the Christians, they’re all done in these outlandish caricatures that are positively villainous. If it had been toned down a little, it would have been at least a little bit amusing, but it felt like I was being hit over the head with a brick about it.

She always had a reason. She did it to protect me.

While I didn’t hate this book—I still think the synopsis had major potential, and it was a quick read that managed to keep me just entertained enough to keep reading—I can’t say that I would recommend it to anyone who reads much horror, as I think it would be a letdown. While Cajoleas shows definite potential to improve, I probably won’t rush to pick up any future releases of his.

Content warnings for demonic possession (obviously), violence, mutilation, animal abuse/mutilation/death, sexual assault, physical assault, slut-shaming, poor representation of multiple religions, parental neglect/abuse, drug/alcohol abuse, and overdosing/suicide.

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Amulet Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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Just a 25-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

14 thoughts on “The Good Demon — Jimmy Cajoleas

  1. Now I’m really considering not reading this and sending my apologies to the publisher. I honestly think I’d have the same problems as you and since I’m in a really picky mood, I’d just end up not finishing it. Down to a case of bad review versus no review….

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    1. Yesss, exactly! The romance was honestly so awkward. I didn’t even want to get into just how much I couldn’t stand the love interest and how predictable his actions were (as soon as the ‘big thing’ happened, I KNEW he was going to blame her for it afterwards, so when he did, I just rolled my eyes and groaned to myself).

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  2. I was intrigued by this, but I don’t think I’ll be running to pick it up anytime soon. I may still check it out eventually, but with your review in mind, I’m not sure I’d like it very much!

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    1. Thank you! A few adult titles I have loved over the last few months were:
      * The Siren and The Specter by Jonathan Janz
      * Kill Creek by Scott Thomas
      * The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
      * A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

      I also have a whole list of recommendations going up tomorrow morning and it will include mostly adult titles! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel you on YA horror! It’s honestly SO hit and miss for me. I’ve been working on a horror recommendations post for tomorrow, and it’s amazing how short the YA section is compared to the adult section for me, lol. I just find that I end up disliking a LOT of YA horror. 😦

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