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Ever Dance With The Devil In The Pale Moonlight?

Step onto the set of a paranormal reality show with Micol Ostow's clever tale of ghosts and one highly skeptical teenager.

Ever Dance With The Devil In The Pale Moonlight?

BOOK REPORT for The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow (Illustrations by David Ostow)

Cover Story: Juvie
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Dear Lucia
Bonus Factors: Ghostbusters, Reality TV, Illustrations
Relationship Status: Spirited

Cover Story: Juvie

Okay, if I didn't know anything about this book and saw the cover, I would automatically assume that it was about a teenage deliquent who listens to grunge and always uses "The Devil made me do it!" excuse for her criminal activities. After getting locked up too many times, she's sent to Catholic school, where she's watched over by a tough-lovin' nun and eventually rehabilitated, although that snarky sense of humor ain't going nowhere, Sister!

That... is not what this book is about.

The Deal:

In terms of high school internships, working on a paranormal reality show should rank preeeetty high up on the list, miles above "menial desk job" and just under "shilling wands at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter." But for Winnie Flynn, it's the pits. Any job would probably suck, given that her mother recently committed suicide, but the set of Fantastic, Fearsome is both a reminder that her mom is dead (being surrounded by grisly tales doesn't do much to make those memories fade) and an excruciating source of what ifs. What if ghosts are real? What if her mom's spirit can communicate with her?

But that's silly, because Winnie doesn't believe in ghosts, and she definitely doesn't believe in the Jersey Devil, the creature this season's "experts" are hunting. As the crew moves from the Jersey boardwalk to an abandoned insane asylum, weird things begin to happen, but Winnie remains a skeptic, even in the presence of Seth, a Hunter with very nice eyes. Because everything you see on reality TV is fabricated... right?

BFF Charm: Yay!

Winnie is one of those characters who benefits from having a first person narrative. If I had to judge her based solely on outward behavior, I would not be so generous with my charm, since she comes off as way too cool for school. It's like, I get it, you think all of this supernatural stuff is bullshizz, I heard you the first (and fifth, and tenth) time. But underneath the scoffing and eye rolling, there's a girl with a wonderful grasp of sarcasm, a girl who isn't so sure of herself, a girl still reeling over the loss of her mother. I really enjoyed getting to know that girl, and even though the Ghostbusters advise against it, I'm glad our streams crossed.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Of course Winnie, the skeptic, would fall for Seth, the biggest believer. It's a great recipe for tension, but while there are certain moments of frisson, I am literally incapable of awarding a rating higher than a 4 because of one massive, major detail:

Seth has a ponytail.

NOPE.

Talky Talk: Dear Lucia

Throughout her narrative, Winnie is giving a play by play, in her head, to Lucia, her best friend whom she left behind for the summer. I couldn't help but think of Felicity Porter, speaking to Sally via a cassette recorder, but Winnie's dialogue with Lu is less confessional and more conversational. Micol Ostow effectively utilizes this structure to instantly draw readers in, and thanks to Winnie's personable charm and intimate honesty, walking in Lu's shoes makes for an engaging stroll. 

I do have one slight nit to pick--the meta humor about horror movies. Winnie is a big fan of the genre, and she often references its tropes, from The Final Girl to the importance of never saying, "I'll be right back." It's cute, but it's already been done, many, many times (including recently, with not one but two films about the Final Girl), and consequently, the jokes feel tired and overdone.

Bonus Factor: Ghostbusters

The Hunters on Fantastic, Fearsome aren't really there to "bust" ghosts per se, but like our New Yorker pals (well, minus Venkman), they're focused on the study of paranormal phenoma, a field ripe with rituals and creepy histories. As they pursue the Jersey Devil, the Hunters introduce Winnie to all kinds of juicy occult business, and though my fear factor was low, my enjoyment factor was high, because who doesn't love a good ghost story?

Bonus Factor: Reality TV

It seems like "reality TV" is becoming the new vampire of YA, and I'm totally down with that. By going behind the scenes with Winnie, readers get to see the mechanics of a TV shoot, not to mention all of the manipulation that goes into creating "reality."

Bonus Factor: Illustrations

Micol Ostow's brother, David, created illustrations sprinkled throughout the book, and they go a long way in adding both atmosphere (there's something a little Gorey-esque about a few of them, like the above drawing of the insane aslyum) and humor (the handful of comic strips are a fun touch).

Casting Call:

Olivia Cooke as Winnie

Devon Bostick as Seth, SANS PONYTAIL.

Relationship Status: Spirited

The Devil and Winnie Flynn is a satisfying romp through the supernatural, and I particularly enjoyed the delicate balance in tone--there's wit, there's introspective angst, and there's plenty of spooky vibes. It didn't rock my world, nor did it scare my pants off, but the next time I feel like bustin', I know who I'm gonna call.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Soho Press, but got neither cocktails nor money in exchange for this review (dammit). The Devil and Winnie Flynn is available now.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).