Sunday, December 17, 2006

Devilish - Maureen Johnson

Maureen Johnson's Devilish is a Faustian tale. Jane Jarvis is a genius who's also seriously out of place in St. Teresa's Preparatory School for Girls in Providence. Whilst she considers herself to be above the school's traditions, she does want to help her very best friend, Ally, to get a good freshman "sister" at the annual Big-Little ceremony. Unfortunately Ally forcefully vomits over one of the potential "Littles", in front of the entire student body, meaning she now needs more than Jane's help. After a brief period of avoiding all her schoolmates, Ally suddenly becomes cool, confident, sophisticated and unbelievably well dressed. It's a truth universally acknowledged that high school is hell, so it makes sense that demons abound, and, as it happens, Ally has sold her soul to one. Jane is determined to save her friend and odd things start happening, from a storm of giant hailstones to self-igniting textbooks. Jane tries to make a deal with the demon who holds Ally's soul, which is accepted, but then, amazingly, Ally makes a counter-deal because she doesn't want to lose what she had. In the end, Jane does the only thing left open to her.

Johnson's characters are fairly well-developed and definitely interesting, and readers will enjoy meeting them, especially Jane's family. The scenes set in the Catholic high school are amusing without making a mockery of religion - I was reminded of Sister Act 2 (without the singing !), for example, Sister Rose Marie gives Jane a demerit for lack of caution in adverse conditions when she is rushing through the lobby during a power cut. Devilish is also available from

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