Demon Road – Derek Landy

There are some experiences which both adult and child readers have in common – losing yourself in another world, the thrill of finding a new author who you love and, one of the best ones, finding a new book by your favourite writer. However, younger readers do have one problem which tends not to bother older people – realising that you are getting to be a bit too old for that series you loved five years ago. Of course, I realise that I am, at my advanced age, ‘too old’ to be reading Harry Potter but the joy of being a grown-up is you kind of stop caring after a certain point. I’m sure we can all remember, however, the indignity of being thought to be eight years old when you were, in fact, ten….

One of our most popular authors in the 9-12 age group is Derek Landy, whose Skulduggery Pleasant series has been a favourite since 2008 when the first book won the Red House Children’s book award. And here’s the problem – even if you were a precocious eight-year-old in 2008 you are now fifteen and are looking for something a little meatier. Derek Landy, however, seems to have thought of this and his new book is very firmly in the Young Adult camp. And it is really, really good…

demon roadFrom the beginning Demon Road starts ticking all the YA boxes – distant parents, bullying, self-esteem and self-image issues – and it just goes on. But don’t think it is all doom and gloom – I don’t think Landy could write without his trademark dark humour and wit – and it never quite veers into the kind of adult themes which would make it only suitable for older teens. The heroine, Amber, is just sixteen. She has all the normal sixteen-year-olds problems but then she discovers that she is, in fact, a demon and she was born (in fact bred) for her parents and their friends to kill and eat. I’m not sure if teens these days use the phrase ‘major bummer’ but it certainly seems appropriate at this point.

The pace of the story is pretty relentless as Amber criss-crosses the country in the company of the mysterious Milo, his sinister car and a young Irish lad called Glen. There are demons aplenty, strange psychotic children, vampires, malevolent tree-spirits and serial killers. There is quite a lot of blood and gore and, as a final insult, Amber is not allowed to use her phone or any social media. Again, ‘major bummer’…

I really enjoyed this book – I thought all the characters were very well-written and Glen, the young Irish lad, is quite possibly the most realistic and normal person I have ever met in fiction. No, really, he is very, very real – tactless, clueless, afraid and yet endearing – and the best part is that, despite his best (but slightly rubbish) efforts there is absolutely no spark of romance between him and Amber. The book is exciting and funny and all the way through you just know that Derek Landy gets how alienating it feels to be young. Which is probably a good reason for his continuing success

Jane

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