Get Yer YA Out: Personal Demons

Earlier this summer I was talking to someone in the publishing industry about what would be the next big thing in YA paranormal romance now that vampires, fairies, werewolves, and zombies have been overused. She suggested mermaids and angels. Sure enough, the only ARC I brought home from the ALA conference has an angel in it and I’ve seen some mermaid fiction with horrible titles (Forgive my Fins, seriously?!) in the bookstore. Stories about seemingly ordinary girls who are internally conflicted because two gorgeous boys happen to be in love with them are fairly common in YA fiction. Personal Demons manages to be more amusing than most examples of the genre because the main character Frannie is attracted to an angel and a demon. While reading this book I kept imagining Frannie trying to choose between a devil and angel perched on her shoulder. While Desrochers does fall into a few first-time author traps, there’s a certain sense of humor on display in Personal Demons that makes it fun to read.

The story opens from the point of view of Luc, an immortal demon who has concluded “If there’s a Hell on Earth, it’s high school.” He works in the Acquisitions department of Hell, giving human souls a little push that will send them on the path towards the devil. He notices Frannie in English class and thinks that she may be The One – someone with an extra-special soul who needs to be tagged for Hell. The book switches between narrators as Luc and Frannie discover their growing attraction for each other. Frannie is less of a doormat than some YA heroines, displaying tomboyish hobbies like training in judo and restoring old cars. Frannie is drawn to Luc but ends up being more than a little conflicted due to some personal issues like the death of her brother many years ago and she’s struggling with the expectations of her strict Catholic family. No sooner does Franny start to warm up to Luc but yet another gorgeous boy appears who also happens to be interested in her. His name, of course, is Gabriel. While Luc is a dark and dangerous leather-clad bad boy Gabriel is an angelically gorgeous blond with a surfer vibe.

One of the ways where I thought the book failed a little bit is that by only switching back and forth between Franny and Luc as narrators, the love triangle isn’t very believable. By letting the reader inside Luc and Frannie’s heads but leaving Gabriel to be an angelic cipher there’s never any doubt who Frannie is going to end up with. As Luc and Frannie develop their relationship further, the forces of good and evil take a particular interest in the fate of this teenage girl and Frannie’s unusual abilities alter her destiny. Frannie is certainly more active and strong-willed than some of the typical YA paranormal romance heroines (Bella, I’m looking at you), using her judo skills to punish a boy who was hitting on her and not taking no for an answer. I wish that Desrochers used dialog more than hobbies to establish character. Frannie drawing on her judo training to calm her mind and restoring cars with her granddad seems more like the writer is just doing character development by listing outside traits instead of relying on more subtle methods to define personality.

In the end though I was amused by the demon-human-angel love triangle. Luc’s full name is Lucifier Cain, which had me mentally cracking up when I read it, because could there exist a more stereotypical name for a demon? I think not. Also, Frannie’s friends have the most hilarious reactions to suddenly seeing her inexplicably pursued by two gorgeous boys. While it might not be the strongest paranormal YA romance out there, Personal Demons has a certain breezy charm and is definitely worth checking out if you enjoy reading love stories placed firmly within an epic struggle between good and evil.

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