Teen fantasy has taken a definite turn towards supernatural romance since the advent of the Twilight saga. Oftentimes, the focus is on the dark side—vampires, werewolves and demons. So it’s refreshing to see a novel that includes a strong angelic presence. Personal Demons features the battle between Heaven and Hell for the soul of one unique girl.
Frannie Cavanaugh doesn’t make friends easily, and she keeps most people at a distance. But she can’t help but be drawn to Luc Cain, the new boy in her high school. Something about him won’t be ignored, but Frannie doesn’t realize that it’s because he’s a demon. He’s on a mission to tag her soul for Hell. Frannie has a special talent called Sway that allows her to influence people’s thoughts and actions.
Opposing Luc is Gabriel, another new student. But Gabe is a powerful angel, and his job is to protect Frannie and tag her soul for Heaven. Frannie finds herself drawn to both boys equally, but all Luc has to do is get Frannie to sin, and her soul will belong to Hell.
This novel is told from two different points of view—Frannie and Luc. Sometimes the narrator changes within a chapter, although never more than once. This keeps the narrative shift from being too confusing, but readers will have to pay attention and not misremember who’s speaking at any given time. There are a few cues for readers, as the author does a good job at differentiating their voices. I am curious as to why the decision was made not to include Gabe as a narrator, but it’s not important.
Since the Heavenly side of things isn’t usually included in stories, it’s a nice change to see an angel taking a prominent role in the novel, and why I would have liked to see him as a narrator. Gabriel is a genuinely nice character (obviously) but isn’t above a bit of very human sarcasm when it’s warranted. It’s also a unique change to have his presence not inspire lust in the main character, but instead a sense of comfort and belonging. It’s a much gentler relationship than most that you’ll find in other novels.
I liked that Frannie isn’t a typical young adult romance novel heroine. She carries a lot of self-doubt, and it even verges into self-hatred. This keeps her from falling into the stereotype of either the good girl falling for the bad boy, or of the bad girl falling for the good guy. She’s just about neutral, to use a role-playing term, and that’s not something you ordinarily see.
A lot of the novel plays with the fantasy of a girl falling in love with a bad boy and changing him for the better. That’s almost exactly what happens here, but not in the way you’d expect. To say any more would spoil the plot twist, and it’s different enough that you should read it for yourself. Aside from the romance aspects, the novel contains plenty of action and thrills.
Overall, the book flows smoothly and it kept my interest for the entire length of the story. As far as the plot goes, it’s nothing hugely original, but it’s well written and engaging. Personal Demons is one of the better offerings in the teen fantasy genre.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on June 1, 2011.