fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsLisa Desrochers Personal Demons young adult fantasy reviewsPersonal Demons by Lisa Desrochers

At first, Personal Demons reminded of those Christian romances I devoured like potato chips when I was in high school — the ones where a hot date meant getting together to read the Bible. Frannie, the high school girl who is the principal viewpoint character, comes from a large Catholic family and seems, initially, to be intent on remaining true to every bit of her Catholicism. In my own large Catholic family, that would most definitely include allowing no boy to touch me between my neck and my knees before my wedding night. So I settled in for what I thought would be a conservative young adult novel that would make its points about morality by having the persuasive swain be, literally, a devil.

Fortunately, Lisa Desrochers completely surprised me by giving Frannie a mind of her own that is all modern teenager. When she first meets Luc Cain (please note the name), her first reaction is that he is hot, especially since he seems somehow dangerous. In fact, he is well nigh irresistible, and there isn’t a girl in the school who doesn’t want to make a play for him. It’s Luc’s job to seduce Frannie, for reasons unknown to him — but he’s seduced high school girls over and over again, thus “tagging” them for Hell. It doesn’t appear that he will have any more trouble getting his job done this time than he has on countless other assignments.

But Frannie is wanted not only by Hell; Heaven also wants to tag her. Gabe — short for Gabriel, naturally — also shows up at Frannie’s school, also seems very interested in her, and is also extraordinarily gorgeous. Frannie’s friends can’t figure out why these two very appealing guys are both so attracted to her; it’s not like she’s a great beauty or an outstanding personality or the most popular girl in school. What’s the attraction?

It turns out that Frannie is special in a frightening way, and that her tagging would give a major advantage to whichever supernatural power she chooses to align with. In fact, her power is so strong that it causes real problems for both Luc and Gabe, and interferes with their abilities to do their jobs. And when that happens, both Heaven and Hell unleash their fury, and it’s all Frannie can do to survive. And really, all she wants is to make out with these two fabulous guys.

Personal Demons turned into a much more interesting book than I originally expected. While Frannie is a blushing virgin, she isn’t the pure and innocent creature suggested by that description; she just knows what she wants. Her Catholicism, while a major theme in the book, is very much a modern American Catholicism. Conservative Catholics would say she isn’t even close to following her faith, but it’s a realistic depiction of an average teen. High school is depicted in rather more glowing terms than the reality for most of us, but that’s not a problem for a book that focuses on the supernatural’s invasion of reality rather than on reality itself.

Once Frannie realizes that her plight is much more serious than merely choosing between two hot guys, it becomes more like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and less like Sabrina the Teen-Aged Witch. And just as I enjoyed Buffy, I enjoyed this novel. The moral dilemmas posed here are worked out with as much care and interest as they were in that television series, and the supernatural effects are equally well thought-out.

A warning for parents: sex is treated as desirable in this book. Frannie takes her choice of who to sleep with very seriously and with the expectation that it will have lasting consequences, but she is nonetheless making that choice as a high schooler. This is depicted as normal and proper, and not as immoral. This seems like real life to me, but more conservative parents might object.

Personal Demons — (2010-2012) Young adult. Publisher: If you had to choose between Heaven and Hell, which would it be? Are you sure about that…? Frannie Cavanaugh is a good Catholic girl with a wicked streak. She’s spent years keeping everyone at a distance — even her closest friends — and it seems her senior year will be more of the same… until Luc Cain enrolls in her class. No one knows where he came from, but Frannie can’t seem to stay away from him. What she doesn’t know is that Luc works in Acquisitions — for Hell — and she possesses a unique skill set that has the king of Hell tingling with anticipation. All Luc has to do is get her to sin, and he’s as tempting as they come. Frannie doesn’t stand a chance. Unfortunately for Luc, Heaven has other plans, and the angel, Gabe, is going to do whatever it takes to make sure that Luc doesn’t get what he came for. And it isn’t long before they find themselves fighting for more than just her soul. But if Luc fails, there will be Hell to pay… for all of them.

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  • Terry Weyna

    TERRY WEYNA, on our staff since December 2010, would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. She reads all day long as an insurance coverage attorney, and in all her spare time as a reviewer, critic and writer. Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor emeritus and writer Fred White, two rambunctious cats, and an enormous library.

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