Name of Book: Devilish
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Razor Bill (Penguin Young Readers Group)
Audience: Adolescent girls (Ages 11-17)
Summary: Two best girlfriends – one brilliant but aloof (Jane), the other desperate to belong but lacking confidence (Allison), are separated by the machinations of the new girl “Lanalee” who turns out to be a cupcake-eating, soul-stealing demon who has contracted to take Allison’s soul. Jane’s self-sacrifice, along with some angelic help, averts disaster and allows both girls to retain their souls and restore their friendship.
Literary elements at work in the story: The setting is a Catholic girl’s school, which lends itself to the “good vs. evil” aspect of this fantasy novel. It is set in modern time. Most girls will identify with Allison’s insecurities and understand her desire to be popular and “fit in.” Others will see themselves in Jane’s smart, tough persona that is also fiercely loyal. The major themes are friendship, deceit, the power of temptation, and sacrificial love. The book moves along quickly and introduces enough characters to keep it interesting but not too many to get confusing. The parents play a tangential role for most of the story and the independence of the protagonist, Jane, is emphasized. We receive the story from Jane’s point of view, starting with the final event and then recounting what led to her “demise.” The image of Lanalee and her constant consumption of sweets is a repeated image.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/abilities: This book does not attempt to make any specific statements regarding race or gender, although all the main characters seem to be white. The commentary speaks more to our culture and its emphasis on looks, possessions and social status within the high school world. It also speaks, through Jane, about the problems that extremely bright, but “different,” kids may face trying to find their place as young adults.
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 4: 7-12; Proverbs 20: 17; Jeremiah 9: 1-11
Theology: In all our relationships there is a bond that is unseen and perhaps even unacknowledged, but nonetheless present. God is part of our interactions with one another – we are the body of Christ and are in community with one another. One of the gifts of creation is that we are not alone, but have bonds of family and friendship.
Our desire for the material things of this world can become an idol to us. God’s first commandment is that we have no other gods before God. How we interpret and respond to this commandment will determine how we live out our lives and how we relate to the culture and time in which we live.
We live in a broken world that continues to perpetuate sin which is a barrier between humanity and God. This barrier of sin has been overcome in Christ and we have been given hope for our salvation in Him. We are also given freedom in Christ, and that freedom allows us to respond to Christ in faith and obedience or in rebelliousness and doubt. God does not manipulate our choices.
By our baptism we are to guide and build one another up in our faith. We are also called to be accountable to one another. When we engage in actions that are contrary to God’s commandments and teachings, and when we allow others to multiply these sins, we are neglecting our baptismal vows.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What makes us vulnerable to people like Lanalee?
- Why does what God offers sometimes seem less valuable to us than the things Allison wanted and got from Lanalee?
- What does it mean to you to “belong” to God? Is it different from the way people “belonged” to Lanalee? How so?
- Why do you think Allison didn’t confide in Jane?
- How do you see the words from Ecclesiastes 4: 7-12 at work in this story?
- Proverbs 20: 17 is particularly fitting for Lanalee. How were “sweets” used in this story?
- Jeremiah laments for his people because they have strayed so far from God and God’s ways. What is the result of this separation?
- Is there any lament in Devilish? What does it look like in our story?
Review prepared by Nadine Ellsworth-Moran, MDiv/MACE, Entering Cohort Fall 2004
Devilish by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.