Publisher: Abrams Books.
Release date: September 1st 2011.
Paperback, 362 pages.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Jen.
Jael Thompson has never really fit in. She’s changed schools too many times to count. The only family she’s ever known is her father, a bitter ex-priest who never lets her date and insists she attend the strictest Catholic school in Seattle. And her mother—well, she was a five thousand year old demon. That doesn’t exactly help.
But on her sixteenth birthday, her father gives her a present that brings about some unexpected changes. Some of the changes, like strange and wonderful powers and the cute skater boy with a knack for science, are awesome. But others, like the homicidal demon seeking revenge on her family? Not so much.
Steeped in mythology, this is an epic tale of a heroine who balances old world with new, science with magic, and the terrifying depths of the underworld with the ordinary halls of high school.
Reading Jon Skovron’s Misfit will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about demons. Forget the fiery red horns, pointy tail, and shiny pitchfork. Any demon still sporting that look is just a relic stuck in the past. Ok, so most demons are ancient relic’s who have been wreaking havoc on the earth for centuries, but they could still make an effort to look fashionable. Luckily Jael, Misfit’s main character, is here to help the demonic population acclimate to the new millennium and provide a little rehab to their image as well.
Like most characters in YA novels Jael Thompson has not had an easy life. Her father, a former catholic priest, is a distant and forboding figure who rules Jael’s life with an iron fist. As soon as Jael creates a life that is comfortable and somewhat happy she is uprooted and moved without an explanation. To make matters worse her father refuses to talk to Jael about her mother who died when Jael was an infant. The only thing that Jael does know about her mother was that she was a demon. Jael herself is half-demon, but without her mother to guide her Jael is conflicted as to what exactly that means. Besides being a half-demon and living with a father who seems to resent her for it, Jael also has to deal with the everyday problems of being a teenage girl. As Jael’s sixteenth birthday approaches things seem to be falling in place. Rob, the mathematically inclined science geek makes it clear that he would like to get to know Jael a lot better and Jael is more than happy to oblige. Britt, Jael’s best friend, is thrilled that her BFF will finally be able to hook-up with a cute guy and see what she has been missing out on. Maybe Jael will finally be able to escape her fathers suffocating rule. Unfortunately Paul, Jael’s father, has other plans. Two years in Seattle is far too long and the ancient demons who have been stalking Jael since her birth are closing in. It is time to move. For the first time in her life Jael finds the courage to stand up to her domineering father and discovers what being a half-demon really means.
I loved Jael. Besides the fact that I didn’t know how to pronounce her name until over halfway through the book, I thought she was a truly refreshing character. After living most of her life in fear of her father Jael finally decides to embrace her demon half and stand up to him, finally making her own choices for her life. Paul has made her feel ashamed about who she is, but once Jael is able to connect with her Uncle Dagon, an ancient demon who agrees to teach Jael how to harness her demonic powers, Jael realizes that being a demon doesn’t necessarily mean being evil. Demons are just immortal creatures who have been alive since the beginning of time. Their propensity for evil just depends on who they decide to associate with. Jael’s birth itself is a testament to the love shared between her mother and father as demon’s can only become pregnant if they are truly and deeply in love. The fact that Jael exists at all completely contradicts everything she was ever taught about demons in the various Catholic schools her father has forced her to attend. He believed that sending Jael to a Catholic school would help suppress her evil tendencies, when in fact, Jael was never evil to begin with.
As much as I loved the coming of age aspect of the story there is a lot more to Misfit than just a teenage girl trying to figure out who she really is. Since the death of Asarte, Jael’s mother, she has been stalked by Belial, an ancient demon who believes all half-bloods should be killed. Paul has done what he can to save his daughter, but now it is up to Jael to save herself, and the earth, from this overwhelmingly evil force. All while trying to maintain a passing grade in Algebra.
Another aspect that I enjoyed were the flashbacks that allowed the reader to get to know Asarte and understand what her life was like with Paul. There is a scene where Paul and Asarte have become hunters, exorcising evil demons from the earth. The incident in a Brooklyn apartment reminded me of one of my all-time favorite books, The Exorcist. Although this is a YA book I felt that the author made bold choices in his plot in order to tell his story as vividly as possible. I also liked the way that Asarte and Dagon were set up as various mythological and biblical characters throughout the story. It was fascinating to read how the author wove his characters through the ancient and biblical stories that helped to give them substance. Unfortunately, this is also the aspect of the story that I feel would lose teen readers. The flashbacks to biblical times or Asarte and Paul’s relationship had a much more mature feel to them than the chapters concerning Jael. I can see teens becoming easily bored throughout these chapters and giving up before the best parts of the story. Paul is such an unlikable character that I think teens would have a difficult time caring about how he came to be married to a demon. While I enjoyed the background information, others may find it tedious and boring.
Overall I really did enjoy reading Misfit. I thought Jael was a unique character and the story itself stands out from the typical modern mythology fare that is now so popular. The plot was tense from the first page and that is what kept me reading. While so many novels are still casting demons as evil creatures Misfit is a refreshingly different story that stands out from the pack.