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When Life Gives You Demons


Some people have school spirit. Shelby Black has real ones.

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Swoon Index

  • Heat

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  • Tears

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  • Laughs

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  • Thrills

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Full Description

Sixteen-year-old Shelby Black has spent the past year training to be an exorcist. Her great-uncle Roy—a Catholic priest and Shelby’s guardian—believes she has a gift for expelling demons, and he’s put her through exorcist boot camp hell, but he still doesn’t trust her to do an exorcism on her own.

High school is hard enough without having to explain that you fight demons for a living, so Shelby keeps her extracurricular activity quiet, especially from Spencer, her cute math tutor. Secrets run in Shelby’s family, though: her mother has been missing ever since an exorcism went horribly wrong, and Uncle Roy is tight-lipped about it. But Shelby’s hell-bent on finding her mom, no matter what—even if what it ends up costing her her soul AND a date with Spencer.


Uncle Roy doesn’t lower his crucifix right away. Demons can be tricky. Sometimes they pretend they’ve gone and then, once your defenses are down, they attack. Just to make sure, he uncorks a small silver flask and sprinkles some holy water on her. It doesn’t burn her skin, another good sign.

Mrs. Walker moans. Her eyes flutter open and I can see they’ve returned to their usual blue. She stares at us, confused. The possessed generally have no recollection of what happened to them—and considering how most people behave while possessed, this is indeed a blessing.

Uncle Roy takes her hand—the one not still locked to the headboard—and gently strokes it. “It’s alright, Rose. Just relax. You’re going to be okay.”

My irritation at him starts to fade a little. He has a very good bedside manner. One more thing, according to him, that I need to work on.

I get up and walk over to the bed. I pull Mrs. Walker’s nightgown down over her legs and then unlock the handcuff holding her wrist. Her poor skin is raw from where she chewed at it. Good thing she didn’t have her teeth in.

While Uncle Roy continues to comfort Mrs. Walker, I open the door and let her husband in the room. He’s been pacing in the hall for the past twenty minutes. Uncle Roy doesn’t like family members to be present during an exorcism. They have a tendency to freak out when they see steam coming out of their loved one’s ears.

Mr. Walker looks at me, his brown eyes hopeful. “Is she...?”

I nod. “The demon’s gone. She’ll be fine.”

His wrinkled old face crumples in relief. He rushes past me and kneels in front of Uncle Roy. He takes his hand and kisses his gold signet ring, as if Uncle Roy’s the Godfather or something.

“Thank you, Father,” Mr. Walker croaks.

Uncle Roy pats his shoulder. “Best to just let her rest tonight, Abe. I’ll call you tomorrow to see how she’s doing.” He drops his silver flask into the black leather doctor’s bag he uses to store his supplies and gestures for me to follow him.

We walk down the plastic runner path the Walkers have laid over their carpet and out the front door. As we climb into Uncle Roy’s ancient green hatchback, I glance at the little brick house. From the outside, you’d never guess anything weird ever happened in there.

But then, looks can be deceiving. I’m certainly proof of that.


A YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers

"Shelby is a smart and resourceful heroine, and geometry-tutor-turned-demon-fighter Spencer is a worthy romantic foil. The supporting characters, led by stoic Uncle Roy, are delightful. This chatty, fun novel is the perfect beach read." —VOYA

"A quick, enjoyable romance with an entertaining side portion of monster. Readers who like their high-school drama with apocalyptic stakes will eat this up." —Booklist

"Despite the dark topic, the tone is light and Shelby’s first-person narration is comical. ... A rapid-paced read with plenty of action." —School Library Journal

"A cute, fast, easy read that will have you smiling and rooting for the good guy. Buffy The Vampire Slayer fans will enjoy this demon hunter tale, as much as anyone who enjoys—a fun version of—The Exorcism of Emily Rose. ... If you're looking for a book that is fun and uplifting, with a tickle of a teenage romance, then this is a good pick!" —Dani the Bookaholic

Wesley James Ruined My Life:

“Quinn and Wesley are fun, well-developed protagonists, and there is a full cast of interesting secondary characters, too. This [is a] pitch-perfect quirky summer romance.” —School Library Journal

“The writing is excellent, pacing spot-on, and main character’s voice is sweet and funny.” —Lisa Buscemi Reiss, Swoon Reader

“Immensely readable, utterly charming and absolutely un-put-downable… I got a little weepy. I'm not going to lie.” —Jennifer McKenzie, Swoon Reader

“A cute and amusing read.” —Chen Yan Chang, Swoon Reader

“Sweet, well written and utterly relatable.” —Inna Hardison, Swoon Reader