Misfit, by Jon Skovron

I was intrigued as soon as I heard that the premise of Misfit, by Jon Skovron (Amulet Books, 2011, YA), was a half-demon girl at a Catholic school. Then Misfit was shortlisted for the Cybils in YA sci fi/fantasy, and I was convinced. And I was also ready to read a nice YA book, after several months of middle grade...a kiss or two, or even more, is sometimes nice.

So I read Misfit. And it is more than just "demon girl has trouble fitting in at Catholic School." Jael, the titular misfit, actually was fitting in just fine. She had a best friend, a boy who might be become more than friend, and finally, after years of moving suddenly and too often, she'd been in the same place for two years. But then the necklace that belonged to her dead mother is handed over to her when she turns sixteen, triggers the demon side of herself, and all hell breaks loose (in a rather literal sense).

Turns out there was a lot of backstory to her parent's lives that Jael hadn't known about. The sort involving epic demonic power struggles of a tumultuous, and deadly, kind...Now that Jael is coming into her own, she's the target of demonic hatred. And the reader is left wondering (along with Jael, her father, and the cute boy mentioned above), if there is any hope....

Gosh, this was fun! Those who want good times with the paranormal, but are sick of Tortured Romance, should seek this out (that being said, I did get as much YAish romance I was hoping for). The telling alternates between Jael's brisk first person present and third person flashbacks to her parents' past, and the result is a nice narrative balance. The main characters were great (with a special nod to Jael's demon uncle--I can't wait to hear the story about how he ended up in his current, um, fishy state). The plot was just right too--exciting enough to be gripping without overwhelming me in violent action.

Quite a bit of suspension of disbelief is called for viz Jael and her demonic powers (which almost crossed the line of being Too Much to swallow), and I can imagine that some readers might be thrown out of the story if they stop and think about things too much. But I was careful not to, and so enjoyed it immensely!

This is one I'm putting on my list of multicultural sci fi/fantasy: Jael's mother is most definitely not Caucasian (more North African/Middle Eastern/South Asian), and Jael is described as "maybe Middle Eastern or something" and says that her hair is like a "giant black cotton ball." So I'm counting her as non-white.

Note for those who might have doubts about the demon element: Skovron doesn't use the framework of Christianity as the fixed template for his story, although it is, in the world he's created, a real and powerful force against demons. The demons themselves, drawn from ancient myths and stories, predate it, though they were involved in the events of the Old Testament (I found the story of Sampson and Jael's mother especially fascinating). The "Hell" here is not the Christian place for damned souls; it is more a paranormal alternate realm. There was nothing that struck me as disrespectful of Christianity as a religion (although some practitioners are not portrayed in a positive light).

1 comment:

  1. Re: your last paragraph - yes. Sometimes I am A Bit Dismayed at how I love some of these stories with demons and hell and suchlike, but it's nice that this is just variant storylines, not an attempt at rewriting an existing belief system. Further, while clearly the author has some experience in Catholicism and some practitioners are shown in a poor light, for once, it's not all of them. I find that I really chafe at that, and find it completely unrealistic, yet Skovron shows negative people on both sides of the human/demon side, which is nice. I really quite liked this book.


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