In honour of the fast approach of Halloween month, I present to you your 👻 Halloween Harbinger 👻 book, and what a harbinger it is! I’m not sure anything I read in October will come close to being this much fun, this deliciously creepy or have so many words I will now be incorporating into everyday conversations. I’m pretty sure my Kindle feels very special right now because I’ve been smiling at it the whole time I was reading. I am so in love with this book!!!
The Devils You Know, or The Adorkables vs Labyrinth House as I have affectionately renamed it, follows a group of contestants unwittingly participating in the game of a lifetime. Our five River Red School seniors are from small town Wisconsin where the social scene consists of attending bonfires or staying at home.
Given the difficult choice of attending a field trip to Boulder House and not having to take finals or sitting in Study Hall all day and having to take finals, our five adorkables unsurprisingly wind up at Boulder House. (By the way, I say ‘adorkables’ with the greatest affection. I adored every single one of them!)
Built by Maxwell Cartwright Jr. after he became super crazy, incredibly evil and the apparent owner of some serious cranky pants, Boulder House is an architectural enigma filled with collections of oddities, curiosities and all things creepy from all over the world. May the game begin!
Player 1: Violet – The good girl. Her mother is a psychology professor, her father is a practicing psychologist, and she is an A student who spends her time avoiding conflict and crushing on Paul from afar. She hates her boring Forever 21 clothes and greatly admires Gretchen’s fashion sense. This all round good girl has a big secret.
Player 2: Paul – The popular jock. A basketball player who fairly recently moved to Wisconsin with his mother, Paul appears to be the only black kid in school. He’s still reeling from his father’s death eight years ago. He has a secret crush on Violet and an even more secret interest in all things Shakespeare.
Player 3: Dylan – The bullied goth/emo/freak. Sporting black eyeliner and black fingernails, Dylan has been dating Gretchen for four years and worships her. A skinny kid, he spends a fair amount of his school days being pushed into lockers. Unbeknownst to the kids at school, Dylan plays a different role at home.
Player 4: Ashley – The mean girl. Most comfortable sashaying down the hallway at school followed by her squad, Ashley is the undisputed queen bee of the school and has the bitchiness to prove it. Her father is soon to be a senator and Ashley sprouts her father’s beliefs with no regard to whether she agrees with them or not. Gretchen is her arch nemesis.
Player 5: Gretchen – The outcast. This girl has attitude! Abandoned by her father, Gretchen lives with her mother who despite her illness works as hard as she can to try to keep their small family afloat. Gretchen wants to be a fashion designer and shops at Goodwill, repurposing clothes to suit her taste. She has a monster bag with eyes which I desperately want so she’d better keep an eye on me because, just between you and I, I’ve got a plan to steal it from her. Shh!
Handy Dandy Tips Should You Ever Play the Boulder House Game
- Wear sensible shoes.
- Take note of the locations of all of the first aid kits.
- Bring a few expendable people that can be used as human shields.
- Whatever happens, STAY. TOGETHER. You studied Horror 101, didn’t you?
- Weapons. Bring them. Many of them. All kinds.
Small Selection of Phrases that Need to be Used – Always!
- She’s got ova!
- Holy fuck-grenades
- Fuckity fuck fuck
- Oh shitball fuck
- Holy schmolies
- You cad!
It felt like I was trapped in the Thir13en Ghosts house with Jigsaw saying, “I want to play a game”. Each time our contestants entered another room I could have sworn I almost heard someone rolling Jumanji dice.
The whole time I was reading I desperately wanted to tour Boulder House and still do. This is my kind of house!!! I half wanted everyone to die gruesome deaths and half wanted everyone to survive because I loved every single adorkable and after all, they were all underdogs in their own way and who doesn’t love an underdog.
At the beginning of each part there is an excerpt from The Collections of Maxwell Cartwright Jr. and given how interesting these snippets are, I’d buy a companion book if one became available. I adored the design of the crow that shows up between each part in the book. I need a sticker of that crow to put on my car. I loved the story being told from five points of view and how the same detail was perceived differently by various characters. Case in point – Paul’s sexy look.
And, OH. MY. GOODNESS. A couple of the characters go to the toilet during this book!!! That should not be this thrilling but if you think about how rare it is for book and TV characters to use the bathroom, you’ll understand my excitement at discovering a book where it actually happens! You know that weird thing that toddlers do when they’re excited and their bodies kind of bounce up and down but they’re not at the jumping stage yet? Well, I made it to the toilet scene about 3am so imagine me doing the bouncing up and down thingy but sitting down. That’s how excited I was.
This book is essentially about fear, the fear of showing our true selves to the world. Each character has secrets that they’re terrified will surface and change the perception everyone has about them. Their insecurities stop them from living their lives as the person they truly are and so they wander around play acting as shadows, caricatures and sometimes downright opposites of themselves.
The writing style hooked me straight away and I really enjoyed the pacing in this book. Our contestants ran, fought and bled, but they also rested and talked, usually because they were using a first aid kit … but still. There are plenty of wounds with the appropriate level of blood spatter, swords, Shakespeare quotes, the theme from Jaws, knights, tigers, snot bubbles, so many dolls running around, a creepy clown (of course), a cheerful little wizard, and in keeping with 🦄 Unicorn Month 🦄 there’s even a brave carousel unicorn named Sparkles in this book!
Just in case you were wondering, yes, I’ve got the movie adaptation all figured out. Tim Burton is going to get on board and bring his good friend Johnny Depp, who is going to star as Maxwell Cartwright Jr., naturally. It’s going to be awesome, even if the official screening only ever runs in my head. Of course, you’re all invited but make sure you bring me a choc-top.
Content warning for a creepywad sexual predator. This is dealt with respectfully, with insight into the feelings of the victim/survivor and the reactions of their peers.
Thank you so much to Edelweiss and Soho Teen for the opportunity to read this book. This book deserves all the stars!!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Once Upon a Blurb
Plenty of legends surround the infamous Boulder House in Whispering Bluffs, Wisconsin, but nobody takes them seriously. Certainly nobody believes that the original owner, Maxwell Cartwright Jr., cursed its construction — or that a murder of crows died upon its completion, their carcasses turning the land black. If anyone did believe it all, there’s no way River Red High would offer a field trip there for the senior class.
Five very different seniors on the trip — Violet, Paul, Ashley, Dylan, and Gretchen — have reasons beyond school spirit for not ditching the trip. When they’re separated from the group, they discover that what lies within Boulder House is far more horrifying than any local folklore. To survive, they’ll have to band together in ways they never could have imagined and ultimately confront the truths of their darkest selves.