For those of you who haven’t read The Merciless, here’s a brief synopsis: Sofia Flores moves with her mother and grandmother to Friend, Mississippi. She attends the local high school where she meets Riley, Grace, Alexis, and Brooklyn. Sofia immediately becomes friends with Riley and her friends, who all despise Brooklyn. But to Sofia, Brooklyn is a snarky manic pixie dream girl – she’s got bleach blond hair, she hangs out in tattoo shops, and she dresses like she’s in an “Urban Outfitters catalog.”
After Riley finds out that Brooklyn has been sleeping with her boyfriend, she decides that Brooklyn needs an exorcism and demands that Sofia help. What follows is a night of terror.
The Merciless 2 picks up shortly after the first one left off (spoilers ahead). Sofia’s is scarred by what happened that night. All her friends are dead, and all her neighbors are gone. Early in the book, her mother dies, and Sofia must choose between foster care and St. Mary’s, a Catholic school. Sofia chooses St. Mary’s, and within days of her mother’s funeral, she’s driven to the secluded campus by Sister Lauren. Sister Lauren is a young, kind woman, and Sofia’s English teacher.
Sofia’s roommates, Leena and Sutton, welcome her with open arms. There’s the eerie Father Marcus, head of the school and devout Catholic. Then there’s the mysterious and handsome Jude. Sofia is attracted to him but so is Leena.
As Sofia adjusts to life at the school, she’s plagued with thoughts of jealousy and violence. Leena breaks her leg falling through a trap door on stage, and her rabbit goes missing. One night a fire breaks out in the chapel, claiming the life of one of Sofia’s friends. She confides in Jude and tells him about her past, and how she was jealous of Leena. She tells him she believes there’s evil inside her. Jude becomes convinced that Sofia is possessed, and decides that an exorcism will save her. Jude’s beliefs send him over the edge, and Sofia must keep her wits about her to escape.
This is the third book I’ve read from Danielle Vega (Survive the Night was also a wonderfully creepy book as well). She excels at writing in the first person. She taps into the teenage experience with her dialogue and the fears and insecurities her characters have.
The book maintains a steady pace throughout; even when there’s only dialogue, the dialogue drives the story forward. The first book was creepy and atmospheric. The Merciless 2 is no different – from visions of creepy smiles to the most awkward confession scene I’ve ever read – the creep factor is high with this one. Fans of magical realism, YA, and horror should enjoy this book.
Vega does a wonderful job of describing the feelings of loss, and how sometimes you feel like your loved one is guiding you. As someone who’s lost a parent, I can relate.
I do think that this book lingered on Sofia’s time at St. Mary’s a bit too much. Sofia and Jude’s conversation big conversation didn’t happen until the last quarter of the book. Letting the exorcism have more time could have added more punch to the book.
Also, I think some of the characters were a little flat. Sister Lauren, for example, isn’t given much back story. She’s there a teacher and source of comfort for Sofia, but that’s about it. Since Jude mentions having thoughts and moments of anger, perhaps featuring more scenes of him acting out could have upped the ante. His exorcism decision and the violence that follows comes way out of left field; I would have liked to see more of a build up there.
Ultimately, this was a wonderful, easy read. I really enjoy Vega’s writing style, and I look forward to reading more from her.