I don’t read a whole lot of Young Adult Literature. I usually jump on the teen bandwagon when there is a lot of hype surrounding it and I need to see what the fuss is about (Enter, The Hunger Games). However, when I came across The Merciless by Danielle Vega (the pseudonym for Danielle Rollins), I decided I had to give this one a read. It was marketed as “Mean Girls meets the Exorcist”. Yes, please.
The novel opens with the cliché of all clichés. A new girl, Sofia (who has a bit of a dark past), has moved to a new school. She befriends a loner (Brooklyn) but then is swept off her feet by a clique of popular girls (led by the queen bee, Riley). Now here’s the twist, Riley believes that the Brooklyn is possessed by a demon and ropes Sofis along with her other minions into kidnapping Brooklyn and performing an exorcism on her. I haven’t been in high school for a long time- but is this what they do now? Those crazy kids.
The general concept of this book was something I was really into. Sofia, who narrates the novel, is struggling between following along with the exorcism and helping Brooklyn escape. She watches, in horror, as the girls begin their “exorcism”- which just ends up being torture. The fact that a bunch of sixteen-year-olds could get roped into something like this, all because they want to get invited to a party on the weekend or sit at a certain lunch table was fascinating; Vega does a good job at highlighting the bystander effect in this novel.
Although the beginning of the novel was slow, I found myself completely engrossed in the middle, as Riley locks the girls in the basement to complete the exorcism. Although Riley is the ringleader, every girl ended up being prone to violence, as they begin to willingly take part in the torture. This was pretty creepy; I completely understood how this novel is shelved as a YA Horror. Then the novel takes a turn. Not necessarily a bad turn, but it moves completely from horror in realism, to paranormal. This was okay, just not what I was expecting. As these paranormal bits come together, I went from being creeped out to thinking “well, now this is ridiculous” to back to being creeped out again.
A lot of people had mixed reviews on the ending, they felt like it was completely random. I actually really liked this part. I know there is a sequel to this book, so I figured something new would have to be introduced to push the plot forward. There are also a ton of unanswered questions surrounding the plot (which I will spare you to avoid spoilers) but I’m hoping that these would get answered in the sequel as well.
If you are looking for an incredibly terrifying read, this one probably won’t be it. But if you are a fan of YA Lit and want something a little different, then you may enjoy this one!