Small Town Monsters

Random/Underlined. Sept. 2021. 336p. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780593427514.
Gr 7-10–The occult abounds in Roaring Creek, including strange deaths, a local religious cult, and demonic possession. Vera Martinez’s parents have cornered the market on exorcising demons and storing them in their basement, which happens to be in the creepy haunted house where local kids dare each other to go up on the porch on a dark night. Vera is Puerto Rican and Irish (and cued as Catholic) and is thought to be a witch. She dresses the part, including dark hair, black nail polish, and dark-colored hospital scrubs. Meanwhile, Max’s mom has fallen into addiction since the death of her husband and seems less and less like herself—including speaking in creepy, gravely voices invoking the beyond. Jamaican-Italian Max has been raising his younger sister for the past seven years, but more and more it seems it is his own mother who presents the biggest threat. Of course, Vera’s parents are “away on business” in Barcelona and can’t return on short notice to deal with Max’s mom’s possession. Vera’s been having clairvoyant dreams and thinks she may have some innate ability to handle the demon on her own. Of note is the fact that even the minor characters are assigned mixed race identities, but these don’t seem to be significant other than in some food culture and implied Catholicism.
VERDICT With a potential movie reboot of the original in the works, this might serve as a taste of The Exorcist condensed into a bite-size morsel.

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