I started reading my copy of Possess by Gretchen McNeil while I was at work for an overnight shift. Probably not one of my best ideas as the creepiness factor for this story is kind of in the tens. You’ve got demons, possession, murder, mystery, and secrets galore. Definitely not the type of book I should have been trying to read in a 100+ year old building where everyone was asleep except for my co-worker and myself even if there is a little bit a romance thrown in as well but I survived it and guess what … I found myself enjoying it too!
Possess tells the story of angst-filled fifteen Bridget Liu who wants nothing more than be left alone by everyone and everything in life, especially the eerie voices she can suddenly hear. Unfortunately for her, no one seems to understand the concept of leaving her alone and the voices…well, they turn out to be demons…and apparently Bridget has the rare ability to banish them back to wherever they came from. Confiding in a local priest who begins to enlist her help in increasingly dangerous cases of demonic possession, she starts slowly coming to terms with her new found power but, everything she thought was true quickly becomes tested as she receives a startling message from one of the demons. Now, she must unlock the secret to the demons’ plan before someone close to her winds up dead … or worse.
I enjoyed the voice of fifteen year old Bridget. She was filled with so much angst but, it was understandable with what she was dealing with. The murder of her father, a mother who is constantly flirting with two men who are intentionally/unintentionally trying to replace her father, a younger brother who keeps having nightmares, friends that understand her but don’t completely understand her, a boy who is practically stalking her because he wants to be with her, another boy who wants to help and protect her, and of course, the sudden voices she can hear. It’s a lot for someone to handle, and all of it is very interconnected! All of the little interconnected nuances of the story made it an exciting read because I never knew exactly what I was getting myself into until I was already into it.
I also really enjoyed the romance aspect of Possess because I felt that it added to the story instead of taking away from it. Matt is a childhood friend of Bridget’s whom she lost contact with after he moved away. Now he’s back, and he wants to be with Bridget but, she’s changed since she was a little girl. She doesn’t open up to people very well and she doesn’t want to be part of the in crowd but Matt is relentless and is determined to find a way into Bridget’s heart. Normally, this type of behavior would rub me the wrong way but, in Matt’s case it didn’t. He’s very sweet about the way that he approaches Bridget, and it is apparent that he only has her best interests at heart. In comparison, there is another boy named Peter, who is obsessed with Bridget, and wants to be with her. He is often teased about this by their mutual friends and honestly, he reminded me a little too much of a situation that I had to deal with recently with one of my best friends. Suffice to say there were not demons involved (I think) but there was an overly obsessive guy who still won’t get a clue, and I think that is why I didn’t much care for him. Yet even though I didn’t necessarily care for Peter, I think both situations added to the story because of the way that they impacted Bridget, and her journey with understand her secret ability, and the way in which she could use it on her life. I’m not sure if there are really teams for this story but if there are I am totally Team Matt all the way.
The writing style of Possess is fun, and easy to read. My only wish about the book would be that there was more description regarding the more “evil” characters in the book. While I did enjoy it, I still found myself with questions that were never full answered. Ultimately though, if you’re looking for something that is a bit different and that may just give you the creeps (in a good way), I would say that Possess by Gretchen McNeil is the book for you as it is a truly captivating debut novel.
Disclosure: Purchased copy at Oblong Books at the Stages on Pages signing in November 2011.