By Stephanie Dunnewind,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Old-school horror, complete with spiders, clowns.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Reggie borrows a book from her employer without telling him. Reggie takes care of her younger brother after her mother deserts the family. Aaron charges other students for writing their term papers. Aaron and Reggie try to withstand their fears; Reggie lets a wolf spider climb on her arm. Possessed Henry tears out the fur on his favorite stuffed animal, saying, "Did that hurt?" Reggie talks back to her father.
Violence & Scariness
Plenty of horror violence, but most with a dreamlike quality. As a punishment, a father lashes his 10-year-old son to a cross in a field, leaving him overnight in December. Deaths, including a babysitter, a hamster, birds smashed with a baseball bat, a man sealed in a room and left to die, a possessed teen who drowns. Plus mentions of arson (with children as causalities), a serial killer (who drinks the blended blood and brains of a victim), kidnapping, and waking nightmares of giant spiders and blood and organs spewing from someone's mouth. In an evil dream-carnival all sorts of horrors exist: children with no tongues, decapitated heads to be shot at as a game. Some fighting with knives and a bone saw and a scene of a demon baby feeding on its mother's blood and flesh, ripping out through her abdomen.
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"Hell," "p---y-boy," "ass," "damn," "asshole," "bitch," "bastard."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
To trick their father, Henry says he thinks Reggie and Aaron are high.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that on the ever-escalating horror scale, this falls fairly low in terms of violence and mayhem. Much of the disturbing action takes place in a "fears cape" where nightmares seem to come true. While it's certainly gross and creepy -- axe-wielding psycho clowns, children with their tongues cut off -- the dream quality takes the edge off the threat of danger to the protagonists. The children's mother deserted the family and most of the psychological aspects play on this abandonment. One teen (possessed) boy dies.
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What's the Story?
When horror aficionado Reggie picks up a hand-written journal called The Devouring at her job, she starts reading it to her 8-year-old brother Henry as a bedtime story. Demons called the Vours prey on fear, taking over people's bodies on the winter solstice. As a chant explains, "When dark creeps in and eats the light, bury your fears on Sorry Night. For in the winter's blackest hours, comes the feasting of the Vours. No one can see it, the life they stole, your body's here but not your soul." As Henry's behavior turns darker and darker, Reggie and her best friend Aaron wonder if the Vours have possessed him. Can they fight this malevolent presence without destroying her brother in the process? The ending, which suggests a larger evil at play, sets up a sequel.
Is It Any Good?
With the namedropping of Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe in THE DEVOURING, readers hardly need to check the author profile to know Holt is a horror fan himself. With quick, smooth pacing and engaging teen protagonists, Holt fits in a dirty dozen of horror standbys, including an ominous funhouse hall of mirrors, giant spiders, corpses sealed behind walls, and an evil surgeon with a drill. The Vours are pretty creepy, even if the plot occasionally feels like horror redux (knowing comments like "Who knew my deepest fears were so damn cliché?" don't really excuse yet another psycho clown).
Reggie's best (and seemingly only) friend, Aaron, plays a substantial role, upping the interest quotient for male readers. Teens may feel a bit tricked that even a horror novel comes with a pat message ("You battled your worst fears"). Still, for a read on a dark winter's night, this should offer some frights without excessive gore or sex.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about what scares them and how they could (or have) overcome that fear.
Families can also discuss what make something scary -- why is a spider or clown spooky to one person but not to another?
What do movies, books, and other popular media do to encourage or discourage fears?
- Author: Simon Holt
- Genre: Horror
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: September 1, 2008
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 12
- Number of pages: 204
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
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