When Life Gives You Demons, by Jennifer Honeybourn
Publish Date: July 17, 2018
Published by: Swoon Reads
Genre: YA Paranormal
My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)
**I received an egalley of this from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**
Sixteen-year-old Shelby Black has spent the past year training to be an exorcist. Her great-uncle Roy—a Catholic priest and Shelby’s guardian—believes she has a gift for expelling demons, and he’s put her through exorcist boot camp hell, but he still doesn’t trust her to do an exorcism on her own.
High school is hard enough without having to explain that you fight demons for a living, so Shelby keeps her extracurricular activity quiet, especially from Spencer, her cute math tutor. Secrets run in Shelby’s family, though: her mother has been missing ever since an exorcism went horribly wrong, and Uncle Roy is tight-lipped about it. But Shelby’s hell-bent on finding her mom, no matter what—even if what it ends up costing her her soul AND a date with Spencer.
I honestly didn’t think I was going to end up reading this book in two days but that’s exactly what I did. Somehow it sucked me right in and I could not bring myself to put it down until I finished it. With some great Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Mediator vibes, this book was fun, quick, and a completely engrossing read.
The story moves quickly and reasonably, with only a few moments here and there where it felt like things were a little too fast or easy. Some revelations came about sort of randomly, and while there was plenty of foreshadowing and clues that I could glean onto (the Spencer thing was so easy to see from the start), when Shelby finds out about these secrets it just felt a little…anticlimactic. The ending itself felt a little easy and rushed too, and there were definitely times I wished for longer scenes and more details about things (i.e. the setting, which is supposed to be Seattle, a fact which I was constantly forgetting). The exorcism scenes were great, though, with just enough detail to have me grossed out or jumping at certain moments, and kept the story flowing. Overall the plotline was great and interesting, and everthing worked well together in the end.
I really enjoyed the characters and their relationships with each other. There’s the narrator, Shelby, who just felt so realistically a teenager with her unenthusiasm about training to be an exorcist juxtaposed against her desire to prove to her uncle that she is capable to being one, as well as her issues with school and social life. (See also: bedazzled holy water spray bottle. It just said so much about her character and I loved it.) I loved her relationships with her Uncle Roy, whom she loves but also feels annoyed at at times, and her best friend Vanessa, who is by her side no matter what and who doesn’t disappear into the background of the story like I see happen often in some YA novels.
I really liked Spencer and seeing Shelby’s relationship grow with him, and while there were definitely some interesting things about him, I would have loved to gotten more glimpses into his personality. But it was also nice because while their romance was cute, it didn’t overtake the storyline, nor was it one of those over-the-top romances either. It was sweet, had some conflict, but felt appropriate for teenagers and gave off the impression of the possibility for growth.
This was a fun, captivating story that had me hooked from the start. I really enjoyed the characters and storyline, and couldn’t get over how easily I got swept away by it. There were some flaws in pacing and other things, but overall it was a great story that I would definitely recommend to fans of things like Buffy and Meg Cabot’s Mediatorseries.