Jane goes to an all-girl Catholic high school, where she’s a smart, punky outcast. Her best friend is Allison is unpopular and anxious, and Jane would do anything for her. Anything. Including selling her soul to a devil’s minion in order to win back Allison’s soul.
This is one book by Maureen Johnson that I’d never really thought about reading before, but then at the Book Blogger Convention, where Johnson was the keynote speaker, she talked a lot about her experiences at an all-girl Catholic high school. The stories were absolutely hilarious, and she said Devilish is based loosely on that time of her life. I knew immediately that I had to read this book. I put it on hold from the library as soon as I got home.
The prologue threw me off. I didn’t understand a word of the first few paragraphs. There were so many references to things I would only understand as I read the book. It was almost enough to make me say never mind, but I pushed on. I’m glad I did. At the end, I went back and reread the prologue and it made a million times more sense to me. I give this as a warning to others who may be completely baffled by the first two pages of the book. No, it won’t make sense for quite some time.
This is my fourth read by Maureen Johnson, after 13 Little Blue Envelopes, The Bermudez Triangle, and Suite Scarlett, and I’d say it ranks third in the list. Better than Suite Scarlett, which I didn’t like, but not as good as the other two. There were issues in the writing that bothered me, places where the prose would get choppy and the focus would change very fast, leaving me bewildered and floundering. For example, there’s this one moment when Jane’s dog looks at her in a dream, and then someone begins speaking. It sounds like it’s the dog speaking, but it’s not. It’s the other guy in the dream with her. But there’s some pronoun confusion, saying “he said” when she’s just mentioned the way the dog is looking at Jane, without ever mentioning the human companion in between. Things like that. They confused me and pulled me out of the story, so that I had to try to unravel who was saying what, where characters were at, that sort of thing. It felt sloppier than other Johnson books I’ve read.
On the flip side, it’s a wonderful plot and all the little details are laid out one by one in perfect pacing. Devilish is extremely funny, slightly creepy, and very fun to read through. Having grown up Catholic myself, I love the tongue and cheek digs at religious doctrine, Satanism, devil worshipping, and the general creepiness of Catholic ideas about the afterlife. Nuns and priests do battle against preppy high school girls who work for the devil. Corporations build their company hierarchies based on the organization of Hell. I love it.
This was a fun read, great for a relaxing afternoon. It’s the sort of book I could see myself loving to pieces at about 15 years old, and I wish it had been around back then.
Note: After time passed, this came to be one of my favorite Maureen Johnson books, the one that stuck around most in my memory.