The Blessed

Common Sense Media says

Extremely violent religious fantasy from ghostgirl author.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Lots of church Latin, as well as peculiarly interpreted lives of the saints and the lessons to be drawn from them. The word "chaplet" (for the bracelets Sebastian gives) will be added to readers' vocabulary. CeCe sings a number of songs by tortured souls -- Syd Barrett's version of James Joyce's "Golden Hair," the Allman Brothers' "Tied to the Whipping Post," and Magnetic Fields' "Summer Lies" -- which may introduce teens to some interesting music.

Positive messages

There's clearly supposed to be a battle between good and evil here, but there's such spectacular bad behavior on both sides that it's difficult to see what exactly constitutes virtue. A strong message of being true to yourself is conflated with a lot of confused supernatural trappings, to the extent that a naive "I've gotta be me" seems to become a holy imperative.

Positive role models

When they're not torturing and killing their adversaries or having romantic fantasies about Sebastian, the girls do have moments of being sorry for their often-appalling treatment of others and making amends. The old priest who inadvertently put Sebastian into the hands of the psychiatrist who abused him is contrite and begs Sebastian's -- and God's -- forgiveness.

Violence

The Blessed portrays sadistic violence as virtuous. Sebastian, presented as a saint, kills an enemy (who would have killed him) by forcing water from baptismal buckets down his throat until he bloats like a water balloon and dies. Religious implements are used to torture and kill. Sebastian heats up metal saint bracelet charms and brands himself with them. CeCe is shut into an Iron Maiden, and her hands are stabbed through with knives, leaving her with stigmata like those of Jesus. A hospital orderly is choked into unconsciousness and later murdered. There's repeated dwelling on the gory details of the deaths of the original Agnes, Cecilia, Lucy, and Sebastian, complete with beheading, eye-gouging, rape attempts, and more. One main character has attempted suicide.

Sex

For a book in which there's no overt sex, there's a constant sexual charge in the girls' relationship to Sebastian. Agnes, Cecilia, and Lucy each describe their martyrdoms through a fevered haze of spiritually veneered lust for Sebastian, with death as the consummation. There's also a sexualized fascination with wounds, as in a scene in which Sebastian applies healing oil to Agnes' cut wrists and there are references to his being "inside her" as she "quietly moaned."

 

Language

"F--k," "s--t," and the like are used frequently, as are abusive terms such as "bitch" and creative permutations like "cla--holes" for jerky fellow students.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking and drugs land Lucy and CeCe in the emergency room. CeCe also supplies an alcoholic homeless poet with liquor; later, someone else uses booze to make the poet reveal information.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that dark, confused fantasy The Blessed, by Tonya Hurley (author of the bestselling, much more lighthearted ghostgirl series), has something to upset practically everybody. Religious readers will be aghast at the violent, smarmily sexy behavior of so-called saints (contemporary teens who take on the identities of some ancient Christian martyrs), while nonbelievers will be appalled by the unfocused religious mumbo-jumbo. There's profane language galore ("f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more), as well as murderous violence described in morbid detail, not to mention a suicide attempt, tombs, bones, and implements of torture. There's also repeated dwelling on the gory details of the deaths of the historical Roman saints Agnes, Cecilia, Lucy, and Sebastian, complete with beheading, eye-gouging, rape attempts, and more.

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

What's the story?

Troubled teens Agnes, who's just attempted suicide over a faithless boyfriend; CeCe, a punk musician who nearly drowns in a puddle when intoxicated; and Lucy, a superficial scenester/blogosphere celebrity who overdoses, end up in the same emergency room in Brooklyn one night. All receive beautiful, strange bracelets from Sebastian, a mysterious, handsome young man who's also a patient. Drawn both spiritually and sexually to Sebastian by the bracelets, they converge on the derelict Church of the Precious Blood as a huge storm hits Brooklyn. Over the next three days, Sebastian reveals that he's actually the martyred St. Sebastian and that the three girls have a divine calling to be the latter-day counterparts to gruesomely martyred Roman saints Agnes, Cecilia and Lucy in pursuit of a mission yet to be revealed. Trying to get Sebastian out of the picture is a villainous psychiatrist who's been trying to "cure" him for years and is now trying to frame him for murder. Confusion, turbulence, and bloodshed ensue, much of it with quasi-religious overtones.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

THE BLESSED could have been a great book: Three very different girls recruited by a mysterious guy for grand adventure and cosmic battle; teens chosen by God in the 21st century, with conflicts and nuances (Joan of Arcadia did this very well); a villainous zealot of the Science Religion who insists that only the quantifiable is real, pitted against saints on a mission from God. It could have been epic and thought-provoking. Instead -- in addition to profane language, gratuitous violence, and constant sexual undercurrents -- readers get a muddled plot that fails to clearly establish who the characters are and what drives them, let alone the nature of the mission for which they've been recruited.

And while Abbey Watkins' illustrations are beautifully creepy, the editing is sloppy, resulting in an incoherent narrative with notable typos. Things may get clearer in the remaining volumes of the trilogy.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about which characters they found appealing, and what are their good and not-so-good qualities. Do you find them and their situations believable and compelling?

  • What do you think about the way the conflict between religion and reason is presented here?

  • How is social media used in this story? Do you see any examples of how it can do a lot of good? A lot of harm?

Book details

Author:Tonya Hurley
Illustrator:Abbey Watkins
Genre:Fantasy
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:September 25, 2012
Number of pages:416
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of The Blessed was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written bycookies_fun April 13, 2013
AGE
14
QUALITY
 

Horrible.

Horrible book. Don't even bother.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass