A few short months ago, Maggie Quinn defeated the seriously evil demon that was trying to take over her senior prom. Now Maggie’s back in Hell Week, and she can’t even crack the staff of the Bedivere College newspaper. What gives? But Maggie’s luck suddenly changes when she goes undercover as a pledge to Sigma Alpha Xi, the campus’ most popular – and most secretive – sorority. Her Phantom Pledge articles are a hit, and that’s not the only place where Maggie’s life has taken a turn for the lucky. It’s not long before Maggie starts to question whether there’s something supernaturally lucky about the Sigma Alpha Xis – even beyond their abnormally perfect hair.
In Highway to Hell, which will be released in April 2009, Maggie and Lisa take off on a totally demon-free roadtrip. They’re going to spend Spring Break on the beach at Cabo San Lucas – ironically, of course. But thanks to a middle of the night encounter with a dead cow in the middle of a deserted Texas highway, the girls are stuck in a tiny town with some very unusual characters. (Luckily, one of those characters is a devastatingly gorgeous real-live cowboy.) Things quickly take a totally unsurprising turn for the supernatural, and once again Maggie is hot on the trail of some unusual demonic activity. After making inquiries at the only bar in town about what animal could have gruesomely killed the cow that totaled their jeep, Maggie and Lisa are becoming more and more sure that the mythical chupacabra is very real – and very nasty.
The second and third books in the Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil series stay true to the super-sarcastic, laugh-out-loud funny voice of Prom Dates From Hell. But now Maggie’s well past her early skepticism. She’s accepted that there are demons hanging out in her neighborhood, and that as the local psychic investigative journalist with a spellcasting best friend and a love interest who studies supernatural mythology, she’s the one who’s going to have to deal with all the evil beasties that pop up in her area. And as Maggie acknowledges her psychic powers and begins to learn how to use them, they no longer feel like a tacked-on plot point – they’re an integral part of both books.
These books start to dig further into the how and why of the demons and magic that are popping up around Maggie Quinn, and the mix of folklore, religion, and superstition are a strength of Clement-Moore’s. Maggie’s boyfriend brings the theoretical knowledge, and her sorcerer friend Lisa brings the practical application. It’s Maggie who pulls it all together, using both her natural curiosity and her psychic Spidey-sense. Highway to Hell brings some traditional brujas into the picture, as well as the intriguing addition of a priest-in-training to their crew of demon-battlers. The young priest is a great foil for Lisa the sometimes-evil sorceror, and he also has his run-ins with Maggie, whose relationship with religion is pretty well summed up in Hell Week:
“Facing Evil with a capital E makes a convincing argument that somewhere, in some shape or form, there was Good with a capital G, too, and I wanted no mistake about which side I was on.
I’m not saying team Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is the only team in the G league, but it’s what I defaulted to when I needed to get my spiritual ducks in a row. Even so, I’m not exactly what you would call a reverent traditionalist.
‘Okay, God.’ I stared up at the dark ceiling. ‘Maybe you could throw me a bone here. I’m going in circles and could really use a signpost.’ I paused, trying to sound at least a little supplicant. ‘So. . . anytime you’re ready, that would be great.'”
–Hell Week, page 166
The question of where God falls in all this mix of magic and mayhem is a welcome addition to the world of the books, and I hope that the priest character will be back in future Maggie Quinn adventures.
With their fast-paced action, sharp tongues, and quick wit, Maggie and her friends are a great match for any teenage Buffy fans in your life. They potentially have some appeal to readers of the Twilight books – but you might want to make it clear that if Maggie Quinn runs into a vampire in her biology class, that vampire’s going to have a stake through his heart sooner than he can say “I’m madly in love with you!” The teen-friendly covers make these books a pretty easy sell, but it’s the bitingly funny characters and their smart take on some implausible situations that will keep readers coming back. As Maggie puts it, “‘Yes, we’re in over our heads… Maybe there’s someone in the world who actually understands how all this works, who’s fully equipped with the armor of righteousness and the flamethrower of smiting or whatever else is in the arsenal of Team Good. But unless they’re hiding behind a mesquite tree somewhere, me, my freaky brain, my sorcerous friend, and my paladin boyfriend are all that stands between Hell and Texas'” (Highway to Hell, page 293).
This review is cross-posted at The Well-Read Child.