- Jennifer Strange by Cat Scully
Scully, Cat Jennifer Strange; written and illus. by Cat Scully. Young Adult Publishing/Haverhill House, 2020 [288p] Trade ed. ISBN 9781949140057 $30.00 Paper ed. ISBN 9781949140064 $19.95 Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 9-12
Isn't it just typical that the moment you and your sister's demon summoning and banishing powers begin to emerge, you find yourself with only a cryptic journal for guidance because your dad has disappeared? Not only that, but it happens with a ferocity and quickness that leaves your very first day at a new school a bloodbath of dead and injured peers. Jennifer is further unimpressed to learn that she and her sister have startling family secrets that now make them powerful tools in a plot to open the Black Gate of death to release a long-deceased force. It's a lot for one's first week in a new city, especially when Jennifer thought the only monsters she'd encounter would be the wealthy mean girls at her new school. Savannah, Georgia is a fantastic setting for this dark gothic tale, and its reputation for being haunted and awash with stories of betrayals, revenge, and ghosts makes it seem almost inevitable [End Page 496] that demons would feel empowered there. This debut novel is overflowing with sardonic wit and memorably feisty (and satisfyingly angry) female protagonists. Jennifer and her sister Liz are unbowed by the gruesome might of their powers, and they adapt as quickly as possible to learning how to use them to keep the gate between the living and the dead closed. Occasional illustrations and journal entries add context, with the highlights being the handful of creepy drawings of monsters Jennifer and Liz face during an eventful few days. It's clear this is a story that has more to come, and horror buffs will happily anticipate the next volume.