REVIEW: “Raising Hell” by Bryony Pearce

3 min read

Raising Hell is a non-stop shop for teenage emotions from angst to, well, more angst and some romance. Top it with loads of action, and all sorts of supernatural creatures, and happenings because being a teenager isn’t enough of a horror story.

When it was first described to me as Buffy meets Supernatural, dear reading peeps, my first reaction was ‘not another one of those’. However, after reading it I must agree that, although these comps have been more than overdone because of their iconic appeal and they will continue to be so for years to come, this couldn’t be closer to the truth – Raising Hell takes the best from both worlds, mashing them together in a fest of horror and gore fit for its own dedicated TV series.

First thing we learn about our MC is not her name, not even her occupation (though that is easily deduced), as we are thrown in media res like in any good YA novel, but the name of her machete — Matilda. So what is a fresh-out-of-school young woman doing working as a machete-wielding security guard in her former school? What are her credentials apart from knowing how to use a machete, a mirror, a flare, a King James Bible, a lighter, a bell, and holy water? We soon find out as she is faced with not one but two hell hounds. And this is how we are introduced to Ivy’s world, an alternative UK where a tear in the fabric of reality occurred, that Ivy is linked to somehow, which allows kids to do magic and for spells to actually work.

With bad luck piling on;  – a gun-shot wound to the leg, an arm out of commission, hell hound induced tinnitus, no job, vodka addiction, and a cat for grandmother.  – Ivy must save the girl who set the hounds loose and find out why more and more kids are getting killed throughout the country. The girl’s hunky brother is no help as he vows to destroy Ivy, finding her responsible for his sister’s predicament. Surely enough, it’s obvious Ivy can deal with the supernatural but why is she so hung up on helping kids? As zombies enter the equation and her research into the recurring magical events brings her closer to the truth, her past comes back with a vengeance, reuniting her with the people who started this whole mess.

With the supernatural looming in Ivy’s daily grind, a theme that emerges again and again is that of ownership and responsibility. Or so it would seem to any adult who’s completely erased those tumultuous teenage years and the associated impetuous decisions. Through those reality-addled eyes, Ivy is the perfect portrayal of a flawed young woman who is plagued by past mistakes but tries to make up for them the best she can. She doesn’t throw her burdens or pass the blame to those around her. She owns what she did and is fighting with everything she has to help those around her even though they fail her again and again. She may be damaged and fictional, but Ivy is a role-model where it counts because she is trying to do the right thing and refuses to take the easy way out. How many of you, reading peeps, can honestly uphold a strong set of values just fresh out of teenage-hood? 

But is Ivy really a role-model or is she just as self-absorbed as the rest of us and everything she does is a misguided attempt to redeem herself? Aren’t the kids she wants to save just a means to an end? Surely if we look through this jaded lens the motivation for Ivy’s fight is less than heroic. But who cares for her reasons if the end game is to save the world?

As things get more complicated and the possibility of closing the tear becomes more real, Ivy is faced with a choice once again between ‘the greater good’ and kids’ lives while overcoming her aversion towards the magic that brought her to this very point – magic which seems to be the only solution to averting a major massacre and a political coup.  If you were in Ivy’s shoes, what would you do, reading peeps? That is the eternal question, isn’t it? What wouldn’t you do for ‘the greater good’? Well, there’s one way to learn about Ivy’s decision – read Raising Hell by Bryony Pearce and you won’t be disappointed.

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