The storyline revolves around 17-year old Mary Francis “Frannie” Cavanaugh, a senior at Haden High School, who is involved in a supernatural love triangle with competing hunks Luc and Gabe. Unbeknownst to herself, Frannie possesses latent powers – abilities so strong that the minions of Heaven and Hell are warring for her very soul. Lucifer “Luc” Cain is a lethally handsome demon whose mission is to get Frannie’s soul “tagged” for Hell – and he plans to do that by seducing her into a mortal sin. Gabe is an undercover angel who must keep Frannie safe at any cost…
While comparing an unassuming debut novel to an international pop culture phenomenon may be unfair, the reality is this: Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers is better written than Twilight, has more well developed and realistic characters, and is decidedly more edgy and existentially weighty. Yes, I completely understand the mass appeal of Meyer’s Twilight saga – and while angels and demons may not be as “sexy” as werewolves with abs of steel and brooding vampiric James Dean wannabes, the profoundly deep questions raised in Personal Demons (about the existence of God, the inanity of organized religion, the healing power of forgiveness, etc.) make it a much more forceful read.
My teenage years were filled with cynicism and doubt – especially concerning God and religion – so I easily identified with the character of Frannie, who is still struggling with the guilt and senselessness associated with the tragic death of her brother a decade earlier. The narrative is peppered with that same kind of adolescent cynicism and disbelief:
“Heaven, God… it’s all a bunch of crap anyway. A bill of goods that organized religion made up to keep themselves in business.”
“Some people are mostly dead, even when they think they’re alive.”
“There is no God. There can’t be. ‘Cause if there was I’d have to hate Him.”
But the narative isn't all deeply contemplative, Frannie is a high school senior, after all, and her and her group of girlfriends must face everyday problems dealing with mean girls, clingy boys, clueless parents, peer pressure about drinking, sex, etc.
“The walls, floor, and tabletops in the cafeteria are all puke green so the real puke won’t leave stains. Just looking at it always leaves me queasy…”
The very first line is indicative of the novel’s young adult tone: “If there’s a Hell on Earth, it’s high school...”
As the novel progresses, the decidedly YA paranormal romance element expands into a storyline more indicative of an adult paranormal fantasy – Frannie, with the help of her friends, must figure out her place in the world and is forced to make decisions that will not only affect her but the entire mortal realm…
Readers who enjoy the adolescent and existential adventures of Frannie will be happy to know that her story continues in Original Sin, tentatively scheduled to be released in the summer of 2011, and Hellbent, tentatively scheduled to hit shelves in 2012…
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for almost the last two decades and has written more than 6,000 reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.