I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Hell Followed With Us” by Andrew Joseph White! This is the author’s debut book, and I was interested in reading it the moment I read the blurb, so I had to see how this one turned out. Here’s a quick summary so we know what it’s about:
“Sixteen-year-old trans boy Benji is on the run from the cult that raised him—the fundamentalist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population. Desperately, he searches for a place where the cult can’t get their hands on him, or more importantly, on the bioweapon they infected him with.
But when cornered by monsters born from the destruction, Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, affectionately known as the ALC. The ALC’s leader, Nick, is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly shot, and he knows Benji’s darkest secret: the cult’s bioweapon is mutating him into a monster deadly enough to wipe humanity from the earth once and for all.
Still, Nick offers Benji shelter among his ragtag group of queer teens, as long as Benji can control the monster and use its power to defend the ALC. Eager to belong, Benji accepts Nick’s terms…until he discovers the ALC’s mysterious leader has a hidden agenda, and more than a few secrets of his own.”
Warning: There is some deadnaming that ensues, instances of transphobia, as well as murder and violence (though the latter should be expected considering what happens in the main story and the fact that the setting of the story is post-apocalyptic). There is also abuse, religious-based terrorism and cults heavily involved, and a lot of descriptive body horror throughout the entire book but especially in the second half. If you’re not comfortable with any of this, you might want to skip reading this one.
Plot Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The true main story is Benji’s internal struggles in this book despite the clearly apocalyptic setting and external problems that come with it. The rest of the story (dealing with the cult, etc.) is secondary in comparison. It was fun to dive into Benji’s head as he struggled with figuring out his own identity, his role in dealing with the cult he once was part of, and so on.
Though this is supposed to be a horror story, I myself wasn’t terrified as a reader – but I suspect others will be, especially when keeping the content warnings in mind. It definitely brought a chill to me as a reader in the second half of the book, where more body horror and gore was present and more detailed. I also thoguht the middle of the main story dragged on a bit long in terms of pacing.
Character Development: 3 out of 5 stars
There are many characters involved in this book, but the main one I enjoyed most was Benji. I enjoyed reading about his backstory, how he’s trying to come to terms with his personal identity while dealing with the traumatic experiences he’s gone through during his time with the cult.
Unfortunately, it’s harder to sympathize with the rest of the main cast, since none of them get nearly as much spotlight as Benji. Even the love interests felt hard to read and really get to know well, since the story is seen so heavily through Benji’s point of view that we as readers don’t know if the love interests actually care for him or might be hiding something else (or, in some cases, both). The other non-love interest characters also felt fairly flat as well.
Overall, I’m rating this book 3.5 out of 5 stars!
I enjoyed the concepts of the book as well as the worldbuilding. However, if you are looking for a huge cast of largely-developed characters, or you don’t do well with reading body horror and anything else in the content warnings, you might not enjoy reading this one so much.
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