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Rating: 1 of 5 stars
Rule #1: Do not show fear.
Rule #2: Do not show pity.
Rule #3: Do not engage.
Rule #4: Do not let your guard down.
Rule #5: They lie.
Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her mom, by the cute son of a local police sergeant, and by the eerie voices she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Unfortunately for Bridget, it turns out the voices are demons – and Bridget has the rare ability to banish them back to whatever hell they came from.
Terrified to tell people about her new power, Bridget confides in a local priest who enlists her help in increasingly dangerous cases of demonic possession. But just as she is starting to come to terms with her new power, Bridget receives a startling message from one of the demons. Now Bridget must unlock the secret to the demons’ plan before someone close to her winds up dead – or worse, the human vessel of a demon king.
Before I even begin my review, I absolutely MUST get this off my chest: POSSESS IS NOT A HORROR NOVEL.
First of all, stop. Stop right there. Right there at the title, author and genre listings. Now take a look at “horror.” Can someone explain that to me? Because there isn’t a single element of this book that can effectively earn the classification of horror. Think back to the last thing that actually scared you, and then read this book, and look me in the eye and tell me it’s horror. Oh? Maybe it’s listed because it’s a horror because it’s a tad creepy? No. Just no. There isn’t an eerie word in this book. It’s not scary. It’s not creepy. It’s not at all freaky. So if you were even marginally weirded out by anything that went on here, go home, you’re drunk.
Whew. Now that that’s out of the way.
So, I don’t know which way I could’ve spun this to produce a better outcome, but I tried going into this book with high hopes and was let down pretty much at the first sentence. Miffed, I tried to keep my outlook positive, but it all went downhill from there. So a few chapters in, I decided to take a look at some reviews to see what my friends and the general public has taken from this book. Maybe it gets better, right? The exact scenes that had me rolling my eyes (and even SKIMMING) were being pointed out as the best the book had to offer from very overwhelmingly warm reviews. WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST READ?
Doll shop scene? Not scary. Not creepy. Not even freaky. Closet scene? Not swoony. Not even remotely interesting. In fact, it came off as… forced. Fake. 100% anti-swoon-worthy.
Which brings me to my second point of contention: the daaaarling love interest, Matt Quinn. He’s actually kind of a turd nugget. There was absolutely nothing worth striving for in Bridget, the MC, so that he pursued her nonetheless kinda sparked my interest, but he really didn’t even do that swell of a job. He was a substandard example of a guy who is worth a minute of your time as a teenage girl. So when she finally went all “You had me at ‘Hello'” mode in his arms, I kinda had to pause for a minute and say, “Really? Didn’t take much, did it?”
And, speaking of why I didn’t see Matt’s attraction to Bridget, she was pretty horrid. Not only to him but everyone. Even her beloved little brother whom she apparently loves to bits and pieces catches the shit end of her character from time to time. Everyone else just receives it at all times.
Oh, and everyone else? Literally inconsequential. There were only like 3 important people in this book. Bridget herself, as the narrator. Father Santos (for obvious reasons). And Monsignor Renault (for even more obvious reasons). Her friends–of which there were an awful lot to be someone so “friendless”–were bland, flat and unconstructed in a painfully transparent way. McNeil’s attempt to flesh out one or two of them also fell painfully flat. She’d have been better off combining them into one or two characters instead of like, a thousand, and saved us all a bunch of useless reading time with worthless nothing.
Not that the writing was quite qualified to meet that task. McNeil has a way of dawdling around the things that literally don’t matter (HER FUCKING DRESS. THAT SCENE. UUUGGGGGH THAT SCENE. WASTE OF MY TIME) instead of paying attention to anything that was actually of any relevance. It’s like she wrote a book about a girl who struggled to enjoy her life in a Catholic high school AND THEN BAM DEMON KING ROAR so she decided, “Oh shit, in the middle, there, I need to actually have demon-y stuff like relate to the big finale,” and threw in random bits of shitty mythology and puzzle-clue-working, very sparsely, between AAAAAAALL THE OTHER CRAP in Bridget’s life. And not even in a respectable tone. Although Possess was written in the third person, McNeil insisted on writing like a teenager anyway with stupid interjections like “Sweet cartwheeling Jesus!” and “flail” and references to The Shining, Stepford Wives and Jersey Shore. Oh, and caps. Can’t forget the totally useless use of random ass caps’d sentences. ENTIRE SENTENCES.
And I’ll let this speak for itself:
Father Santos hurried on. “What else have you kept from me??”
And last of all, Bridget. Bridget Bridget Bridget. Why in the FUCK was she half-Chinese to begin with? Why was that one guy Asian? Why was the other guy gay? And why did that one jock totally love to hang out with assholes like Bridget? Was it to bring to the attention of the YA world the importance of diversifying their characters? NO, I DON’T FUCKING THINK SO. BECAUSE:
“Caucasian, black, Hispanic, Asian—a United Nations of horror.”
(Bridget referring to a bunch of dolls.)
Now, please, tell me, if McNeil/Bridget were SOOO fuckin concerned with racial equality and representation in this book–to the point where Bridget’s dual heritage was brought up as the center of a rumor accredited to Alexa–then why in all the world of worlds would she think it was okay to lump in “BLACK” with THREE OTHER names of races. I have no problem with the term “black,” but if you were gonna go with black, you might’ve thought twice about squishing it between “Caucasian” and “Hispanic,” you thoughtless, thoughtless person. And maybe I wouldn’t’ve made such a big deal of it if it hadn’t been such a sore spot for Bridget Liu to be concerned with her ethnicity.
So, then, I pray thee tell, why in the FUCK is Bridget Chinese?
Look, McNeil, I appreciate the effort. The gay kid, too. He actually sucked, and I wanted him to die because he was such a stereotypical lump of codswallop, but at least he was… you know, openly gay. Bridget wasn’t even openly Chinese. She didn’t look, speak or culturally preserve anything Chinese. Good Lord, she may as well have been full-blooded Irish; then it wouldn’t be so offensive, the efforts to bring into the spotlight her nationality and then every other effort to downplay it with fucking blue eyes and curly brown hair. Get the fuck out of here, Bridget.
And this coming from someone who’s biracial, distinctly biracial, so yeah, shove the fuck off, Bridget I’m-only-Chinese-in-the-most-nominal-sense-possible Liu.
Like I said, McNeil, A for effort, F for, you know… everything else.
So glad this book ended up being a standalone. I wouldn’t finish the rest of the series even if it weren’t, though. I’m still excited about McNeil’s other works. Maybe with less “blah blah blah I’m such a teenager with my boots and bomber jacket, REBEL!!” and more, you know, decent human beings, she could turn out something worth more than this.