The genre: Horror, YA
The gist: Four-book series. Various high school girls deal with a demon possession.
The background: If it’s not clear already, I’m a horror fan. So the first book in this series, with its simple, bold cover design of a pentagram on a hot pink background, caught my eye on Goodreads in 2017. And after I read the description—that Vega’s story is Stephen King meets Mean Girls—I was instantly on board.
The tea: These books are like candy: what they lack in substance they make up for in fun.
Vega doles out sharply written, suspenseful, and scary scenes straight out of a horror film, even if she might not fully deliver on the backstory for the evil present in her series’ world. And if a book merely describing a character suddenly standing in a doorway makes me compulsively flick my eyes to my own doorway—just to make sure—I know picked the right book. That’s what I signed up for.
Deeper, psychological horror, this series is not. And while, at the end of the day, I prefer the kind of horror that sticks with me when I go to bed at night, I also appreciate a good, truly creepy moment, one that might be forgotten hours later but makes your heart beat a little faster as you read it. (Though a grotesque scene from the series with a spoon comes to mind that I actually wish I could forget.) And the Merciless books deliver in spades on that front.
Another thing I like about this series is that it places horror in a contemporary, suburban world. Vega is far from the first to do this, but I love stories that plop the extraordinary right into the middle of the ordinary. In the Merciless series, it’s a demon hiding in Anytown, USA—in the local high school, the local church group, even in an empty model suburban tract home.
I devoured this series pretty quickly and didn’t end up much wiser for it, but I had a damn good time. Like I said: horror candy.
The wrap-up: Does what it says on the tin; no more, no less. If you’re a horror fan and go into it without too many expectations, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy the series as much as I did.
The rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5 / 5
I’m allowed to be afraid, I remind myself, taking a deep breath of the hot, stale hallway air. I’m just not allowed to run away.—Danielle Vega, The Merciless