Evil Librarian

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Evil Librarian Book Poster Image
Chills and laughs as teen girl fights school demon invasion.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

One or two words and phrases in Italian appear without translation. Many musicals are mentioned along with their composers. Sweeney Todd is the school play, and its plot, some of its musical numbers, and technicalities about staging it are mentioned.

Positive Messages

Judge people by their actions, not their words. Trying to do something is better than sitting back and taking no action at all, even if what you try has negative consequences. You can change the course you're headed on, and even change the kind of person you are, without changing who you are. You have more power than you think, and you can make your own happy ending.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Narrator Cyn, a junior in high school, loves musical theater and is the technical director for the school play. She supervises backstage-production staff and invents clever solutions to staging problems, which involve drafting and building. She's tremendously loyal and won't give up on her best friend even when all seems lost. Love interest Ryan is brave, loyal, and supportive and cultivates a wide range of interests from theater to sports. He encourages Cyn to seek adult help when things get out of control. Parents are vague presenses who don't exercise much control or supervision over the teens, but home environments are loving. Teachers and administrators are either innocuous, inept, or, you know, evil.

Violence

Blood is mentioned a dozen or so times and sometimes described briefly as, for example, spattered or seeping. There are evil fantasy creatures (demons) whose strange and sometimes horrific appearance is described, and there are a couple of other disturbing images: A man slices his own forearm with a knife and lets the blood drip into a magic circle as part of a summoning ritual; and a demon's tentacles have lots of tiny tongues that drink in the blood, fear, and pain of the human its tentacle is wrapped around. It's mentioned that people have been killed by demons, but the killing's never directly narrated. A violent battle in the demon world is described without gore. A character's threatened with a knife, and there are a couple of violent slaps. The gruesome plot of the musical Sweeney Todd is described. Pain from injuries is described a few times, and Cyn describes in some detail the torture-like pain of entering the demon world.

Sex

Cyn spends a lot of time fantasizing about Ryan in a schoolgirl-crush way (she wants to touch him, kiss him, and be with him all the time), and occasionally mentions physical sensations and calls them lust. She talks with friends about wanting to "have his sexy little babies." There's mention of kissing in a past relationship, and a couple of instances of kissing are described briefly. Getting your period, a teacher's "impressive cleavage," being a virgin, and pedophilia are each mentioned once.

Language

"Dammit" and "Goddammit" are used frequently, "f--k" and variations about a dozen times, " "ass" a bit less frequently. A few uses of  "hell," "Crissakes," "crap," "Jesus" as an exclamation, "a--hole," and "s--t." "Christ" as an exclamation and "bitch" are each used once.

Consumerism

Lucky Charms, Whole Foods, a Glengarry Glen Ross T-shirt, and the plot of a Twilight Zone episode are mentioned. The main characters are heavily involved in the school's production of Sweeney Todd, and a lot of Broadway and film musicals are mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

"Stoners" are mentioned once or twice.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Evil Librarian is the YA debut from veteran children's author Michelle Knudsen. There's a lot of strong language, including frequent use of "f--k." The librarian in question is a demon in disguise, and there are a couple of disturbing images involving blood and demons. Blood's also mentioned a few more times from injuries. Sexual content is mild, with only a couple of kisses and a lot of crush-type fantasies.

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What's the story?

Cyn's best friend Annie falls hard for the new, cute, young librarian. But Cyn can't shake the feeling that something's very wrong about him in spite of his charms. Cyn's worst fears are soon confirmed, and she learns that he's a demon who's come into our world to gain power by feeding on human souls. As Annie falls deeper and deeper under the demon's spell, more and more demons arrive through his portal and start to take over the school. Everyone's doomed to die in the demons' struggle for power -- that is, unless Cyn can make a deal.

Is it any good?

EVIL LIBRARIAN reads like a weaker installment of Buffy the Vampire SlayerThe heroine is less bold; the humor is less edgy; the supporting cast is not quirky, compelling, or adorable; there's no camp; and it's all demons, no vampires.

But teens who've never seen Buffy won't know what they're missing and will enjoy the thrills, chills, and occasional laughs while rooting for Cyn to save the world from a demon invasion. She's a strong, relatable heroine with an authentic voice, and the growing sense of dread keeps the pages turning. There's a spectacular battle for the demon throne in a cleverly and vividly realized underworld, and the end resolves everything satisfactorily while leaving the door open for sequels. It's a fun, light read for teens who enjoy light horror.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why fantasies are so popular. Why do we enjoy them so much?

  • Has a friend ever fallen for the wrong person? Why did you think the person wasn't right for your friend? What did you do?

  • Do you think Cyn is right: that it's better to take some kind of action -- even if it will have negative consequences -- than to sit back and do nothing at all?

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