Demons can be do-gooders. That is one of the surprises in this excellent young adult novel populated, in part, by minions from Hell. THE LITTER focuses on a nameless, middle-class girl who attends a nameless high school in a nameless city in America. It is there that she meets a new boy, Lupe, who shortly reveals that he has escaped from his homeland of Hell.
Their friendship accidentally turns into a one-night stand on the evening of the senior prom–during a full moon, a time ripe for romance and disaster–when Lupe transforms into a hound-like demon. Immediately following, he is abducted back to the underworld, not knowing that he has impregnated the girl (who remains nameless throughout the story). But Lupe has ghoulish friends from Hell who remain on Earth, including a vampiric high school language arts teacher, who protects the girl and her litter of “pups”, who turn out to possess special powers. She also receives human help from Mikey, a kind, street-smart, seven year-old who teaches her how to hide in her city’s worst ghetto, which comes in handy when her greatest danger, Charles Silk–one of the dark side’s most violent predators–forces her into homelessness.
THE LITTER is the tenth novel of award-winning fantasy writer Jonathan Maas (Spanners: The Fountain of Youth). The namelessness of the central character is a choice, one that fits with Maas’ austere writing style. He smoothly accomplishes the difficult feat by telling the story through “the solitary girl’s” diary. She is a high school student who excels academically, feels no need for friendship and does everything alone until meeting the mysterious Lupe, who is equally bright, intellectual, and solitary.
Reader’s may expect this YA thriller to include a sex scene or two, yet the author leaves those details to the reader’s imagination. Except for brief accounts of the demon Silk’s torture techniques, THE LITTER has very few graphic passages, yet it brilliantly illuminates complicated topics such as homelessness, moral redemption and the value of friendship.
THE LITTER is a spare, beautifully written and thought provoking page-turner that tackles topical issues via an unusual and imaginative storyline.
~Alicia Rudnicki for IndieReader