Published by Harlequin Teen on September 29th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Thriller, Young Adult
When sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner’s family decides to move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, she hopes it is her chance for a fresh start. She can leave behind the memory of the past winter; of her sickly ma giving birth to a baby sister who cries endlessly; of the terrifying visions she saw as her sanity began to slip, the victim of cabin fever; and most of all, the memories of the boy she has been secretly meeting with as a distraction from her pain. The boy whose baby she now carries.
When the Verners arrive at their new home, a large cabin abandoned by its previous owners, they discover the inside covered in blood. And as the days pass, it is obvious to Amanda that something isn’t right on the prairie. She’s heard stories of lands being tainted by evil, of men losing their minds and killing their families, and there is something strange about the doctor and his son who live in the woods on the edge of the prairie. But with the guilt and shame of her sins weighing on her, Amanda can’t be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or deep within her soul.
My friends Nicole from Nicole’s Novel Reads and Elizabeth from BookYAbber have been raving about this book for a few weeks, and when they told me they were heading to Salem, MA to attend the “Halloween Tenn Scream” event hosted by Wicked Good Books and Harlequin TEEN featuring authors Kady Cross, Gena Showalter and Amy Lukavics, I decided to tag along. The event was fantastic (with a costume contest, author signings, and lots of treats) and it gave me the opportunity to hear Amy speak about her debut novel, as well as her writing process. It also gave me a chance to meet Amy Lukavics, pick up a copy of her book, and see what the fuss was all about.
The story centers around Amanda Verner, her religious family and their relocation move to the prairie lands before the winter arrives. We are told about the previous winter and how it pretty much drove Amanda mad with cabin fever. Not only were they stuck in the cabin for months with only each other for company, her mother was also very ill and eventually gave birth to her youngest sister Hannah, who would not stop crying. Amanda just could not take it anymore and she swears that at her breaking point she saw the devil outside the cabin. We learn all this information from the recollections and memories Amanda has as she goes through her daily routine. Amanda has also taken up with a young man named Henry, and has secretly been meeting him in the woods. They have committed lustful sins, which has lead to Amanda becoming pregnant and now she fears the wrath of her family, but also fears the changes happening within her. One day her father comes home and announces that they will be moving to the prairie lands before the harsh winter arrives. The family seem to feel some concern about Amanda suffering through another winter locked up in the cabin again (at least I felt like they were sort of tiptoeing a bit around her). The prairie supposedly gives them the opportunity to find larger housing and hopefully more comforts during the winter ahead. They make the move, but Amanda feels uneasy, she’s unsure about the prairie and what awaits her there and how she will will break the news of her condition to her family. Most of all she feels like something is wrong, something sinister is lurking, and she can’t get anyone to listen or believe her.
I usually don’t read books that are too scary or that could possibly cause nightmares (because I’m a scaredy cat), but every now and then I will pick up a story or book to read if it sounds interesting enough or comes well recommended. Being near Halloween and wanting something different to read, I decided to take up my friends recommendation/suggestion and started to read Daughters Unto Devils. The first half of the book was really slow, I was seriously begging for something to jump out at me (I normally would never ask for that), but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I realized that my issue with the story at this point was that I was looking at it with the perspective of a woman in 2015, and that if I stepped back and looked at in the perspective of a young woman in the 1800’s I would be pretty scared for my life and well being too. Premarital sex and pregnancies were a huge “no-no” back in those days. It was and still is a huge deal within most religions to this very day. No wonder Amanda was so concerned with what her overly religious family would do to her! She had every reason to be scared, and to think that her body’s natural yearnings and desires were brought on by the devil and the evil inside her (probably due to her family/church rules/religion bombarding her with their opinions that such feelings were impure and ungodly). Once I sort of reminded myself of this, it was easier to continue and be as frustrated with the pace of the story or with the “old fashioned-ness” of the dialogue and character personalities. Thankfully, the story did pick up and soon things were happening so quickly I actually wanted it to slow down a bit so I could catch my breath. The ending was definitely creep-tastic and scared me enough to make all the slowness of the beginning worth it. It was hard to sleep for a few nights after finishing this book and not think I would hear crying babies in the woods, eerie violin music and tapping noises on windows and doors.
I really do wish that we would have been shown things, instead of being told them a little more. This goes for showing how religious Amanda’s family really were, or why Amanda all of a sudden decided to start sleeping with Henry the post boy, or the sisterly bond between Amanda and her sister Emily as well as a few other things. As much as the beginning lagged, the ending was very fast. Everything went from pretty dull, to mysterious, to OMG WHAT IS GOING ON? far too quickly without really explaining why the prairie filled with evil and where it came from. Maybe one day we will know these answers, maybe they were meant to be left mysterious so that our imaginations could run wild coming up with answers. Maybe that’s what you are suppose to think about when you are awoken by a loud “SMACK” against your bedroom window in the middle of the night. Because seriously…how else are you going to get back to sleep after that?
I would definitely say give this book a try if you are looking for a creepy read, and are patient with how long the story takes to develop. The ending of this book will not disappoint and will probably make you want to sleep with a nightlight on. Amy Lukavics can definitely put together a disturbing story, and I do look forward to reading what she will come up with next.
**This review was originally posted on Reading In The Tardis**