As I began reading Possess I was immediately taken back to the Catholic possession stories of my youth. Seventies horror seemed to pivot around the Catholic exorcism/possession theme. Being a Catholic, the theme always terrified me as a child. I was delighted to see it revisited in this fast-paced, well written debut novel by Gretchen McNeil. It was a thrill-ride of a story that harkened back to that time in my life. It’s 3rd person POV was so incredibly tight and close, it was as if I were reading 1st person. Remarkably well done. I hope McNeil's Possess is the portal that brings back a wave of stories exploring this theme. If it does become that portal, it's an excellent example of the genre to begin the trend. I could not put this one down!
Bridget Liu, the main character in Possess, was such a strong force. It was a delight to follow her throughout this story. McNeil made sure Bridget had a LOT of issues to overcome. We are introduced to her after her father has been murdered and two suitors are vying for her mother's attention not a year after his passing. And her young brother Sammy is having nightmares. And she has discovered she can banish demons. She's actually killer at exorcising them…I mean, she rocks at it! But she's afraid to take it to the next level. She's afraid of feeling too good in the thick of the exorcism.
With a potential knight in shining armor attempting to get closer to Bridget, she experiences that same 'feeling too good' tingling. Matthew Quinn is an exceptionally likeable love interest that Bridget tries desperately not to fall in love with. If the reader can squeeze between the lines, they might notice that Bridget's high school nemesis, Alexa Darlington, may have earlier performed a little spell to have Matt as her own. But Matt is now cleansed of the spell and only has eyes for Bridget. He is a stunning knight in shining armor, too…always there for the heroine. But though his heart is in the right place, it's clear from the beginning that Bridget is the stronger more capable of the two. She needs no saving. But she may need the good feeling that Matt brings out in her, if she can ever get past the animosity that makes their interactions so entertaining.
Together (in a matter of speaking) Bridget and Matt work to solve the many mysteries that McNeil expertly weaves into this story. Every clue takes the reader on another ride. There are a delightful many creepy occurrences throughout Possess, from the possessed dolls to the feline ghost to the bumbling Father Santos sent from the Vatican to investigate the rising number of demon possessions in Bridget’s town. The reader happily tags along to see where each clue will take them. Who can Bridget trust? Who must she be leery of? The reader knows Bridget will unravel the mess in time to save the day, but the timeline is tight…tight enough to keep one compulsively reading to get to the next reveal.
I think McNeil has found the perfect new marketplace for the exorcism theme---Young Adult. After reading Possess, I’m certain the two are a perfect match. I can’t wait to see what McNeil brings to the table with her next novel. Whatever the story, I’m sure it’ll be as 'unputdownable' as Possess was!