Monday, October 25, 2010

Personal Demons

Desrochers, Lisa. Personal Demons. New York: Tor, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

Booktalk (kind of):
I want to think of something clever and interesting to sum up the plot of the book and get you interested, and I almost never use the jacket copy or internet summaries, but what it says right on the cover is just too good to pass up:
If you had to choose between Heaven and Hell, which would it be?

...Are you sure about that?
Awesome, yes? But in order to give you a little more info about the set-up, I'll try again:

Frannie Cavanaugh is a pretty average girl: one of 5 sisters all (really) named Mary, kicked out of Catholic school, expert in Judo. Like I said, pretty average. Until Luc shows up, shortly followed by Gabe. Two new guys at school, one smolderingly hot and sexy, the other the real life embodiment of what Calvin Klein was trying to do with all those blond male models in tighty-whiteys. And both seemingly enamored of Frannie and determined to win her for his own. But this is no (un)friendly rivalry or game to get the girl. Luc and Gabe are battling each other to win Frannie to their side, and who she picks may determine the fate of the world.

Look at that cover and then look at my little blurb again. It seems like Personal Demons could be an overly dramatic teenage bodice-ripper involving "heavenly bodies" with "hellish consequences" (it's a euphemism if it's in quotes) among other things. It's not. True, there are some Very Big Things going on here, and the potential to be over the top about it is high, but Desrochers manages to make this story focus on Frannie and her inner turmoil about these two guys who suddenly want her, her unwillingness to let people in, and her discomfort around religion in general.

Told in alternating points of view, Frannie and Luc's, Personal Demons is not only really damn steamy, it's also a refreshing look at the start of a relationship. In YA lit, it seems that we're always treated to the girl side of the equation, and more often than not, that girl is insecure about where the relationship is going. We get that here, and Frannie certainly has a LOT to be worried and insecure about with Luc, but we also get the other side. The parts of the book from Luc's point of view were my favorite. Not only has he had centuries to perfect his wit, making him both funny and insightful,* but he's also just as insecure as Frannie. She's supposed to be his mark; he's been sent from the depths of Hell to tag her soul for eternity. He is knocked on his butt by his genuine attraction to and feelings for Frannie. I love seeing a guy in YA go all googly eyed (without turning stalker or otherwise creepy) over a girl...even if this guy is a demon.

There is so much else that Personal Demons has going for it. I don't want to make this unreadable long, so I'll try to just touch on a few other points of greatness here:
  • Frannie has awesome friends who threaten to beat up Luc if he messes with her. 
  • Frannie has hilarious sisters (all named Mary) who aren't so fleshed out that they crowd the story, but are all there and manage to be supportive anyway.
  • Frannie's Grandpa! He's great. Just so so great. He's supportive of Frannie in a way that the rest of her family is not. They all want what's best for her (which is wonderful); he trusts her to figure out what that is for herself.
  • There are multiple deep discussions about forgiving oneself as well as a serious look at whether or not there is anything that is unforgivable.
  • Frannie's discomfort with religion is explored in a sensitive way along with why bad things happen to good people.
  • By the end of the book, Frannie, Luc, and Gabe all learn a lot about love and sacrifice.
I really loved Personal Demons, and I wasn't sure I would just by looking at it. It fits in nicely with other paranormal romances (though it's way sexier than most), but it also looks at some more serious issues. The paranormal aspect brings all of Frannie's existing issues (religion, forgiveness, her inability to let her guard down) to the forefront, but the hot demon and sexy angel roaming the halls of her high school do not cause her story to exist.

Book source: Review copy provided by the publisher.

*Best line in a book EVER (with some context):
Because I love her.
That's got to be what this feeling is--the giddy rush I feel when I look at her, the way all my insides scream when I think about Belias taking her, the insatiable need I have to be with her. How is that possible? There's no crying in baseball and no love in Hell. It's just the rules.
p.193 (bold emphasis is mine; the italics are all Desrochers)


anachronist said...

The book you reviewed here would be the first position I would have avoided if I hadn't read/heard a good, solid recommendation. I must admit I am sick to death seeing another teen triangle described in a YA novel, most probably involving angels or demons and angels or vampres and werewolves (still very much alike) and a human girl. Your review, though, mentioned some interesting topics like religion issues and a guy in love...tempting. Maybe this book is different?

The previous post I deleted due to some horrible typo. Sorry for the mess.

Lawral the Librarian said...

anachronist - I won't lie, there is definitely a teen lurv triangle in this book, but it's not the focus of the WHOLE book. Not to mention that they all kind of readily admit that it's not love but lust that's floating in the air, at least in the beginning, which is a sin and so kind of its own problem for the angel. ;)

Lisa Desrochers said...

Thank you so much for the lovely review! So glad you enjoyed Personal Demons =)

Lawral the Librarian said...

Lisa - Thanks for stopping by! I can't wait for book 2!

AmandaRose said...

Seems intriguing and better than most of the paranormal books emerging..

Heather H. said...

I've heard so many good things about this book, but I think your review is the one solidifying that MUST BUY THIS urge in me. Doesn't hurt that I'm already a sucker for demon/angel stories, anyway. :P