Thanks to NetGalley and Feiwel & Friends for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: Available Now
Synopsis: When fifteen-year-old Jules Mathis comes home from school to find a strange girl, her mother explains that Mae is one of her patients at the hospital and will be staying with their family for a few days. But shortly after, Mae is wearing Jules’ clothes, sleeping in her bedroom, edging her out of her position on the school paper, and kissing Jules’ crush. Then things get weird.
Jules walks in on a half-dressed Mae, she’s startled to see a pentagram carved into her back. Soon white roses start turning up on the front porch, a rabid dog bites one of Jules’ sisters, and Jules’ parents, who never fight, start arguing behind closed doors.
Jules pieces clues together and discovers that Mae may be a survivor of the strange cult that has taken over a nearby town. And they will stop at nothing to get Mae back.
I have to be honest and say that The Devil in Ohio, which is based on a true story, has received decidedly mixed reviews, but except for a few things, I wound up enjoying it even more than I thought I would.
From looking at some of the negative reviews, a lot of readers had problems with Jules’ perceived selfishness. I personally think their judgement is a bit harsh. Before Mae even comes into the picture, fifteen-year-old Jules is suffering from the middle child syndrome. Her older sister Helen is a senior and apparently can do no wrong in not only her peers’ eyes but also their parents. Her precocious eleven-year-old sister Dani, is a musically gifted protege who requires a lot of attention. As a result, Jules is pretty much the doormat in the family. So, I was completely empathetic when Mae abruptly enters the picture and Jules feels a certain amount of resentment. Even then, the two girls spend the majority of the book relatively close, especially given the circumstances.
Mae is also empathetic, even when she seems to be taking over Jules’ life and exhibiting other questionable behavior. At the back of my mind was that this is a girl who was continually abused, both physically and psychologically since infancy. She really has no clue when it comes to societal norms. She craves acceptance from Jules and her family, as well as from her new classmates. My heart absolutely broke for her.
The person I had a huge issue was with Jules mother, Suzanne who is also Mae’s psychiatrist. Her actions are unprofessional, reckless, and exceedingly dangerous. By the end of the book I was appalled by the way she put her family in danger and particularly Jules. There’s a reason that’s divulged for her personal connection to Mae, but this is no excuse for her behavior. The explanation actually made me more angry, not less.
My other big issue was with the ending, which is rushed and abrupt. It left me with more questions and I’m hoping that there’s a sequel that will continue Mae’s and the Mathis family’s story.
I went back and forth over whether I wanted to rate this 3.5 stars or 4, before finally settling on the latter. Despite my issues with Suzanne and the ending, I really liked the way both Jules and Mae were portrayed. I think they’re realistic and many teens will find them relatable. Devil in Ohio would actually make a great discussion with teen book groups, or in an upper middle school or high school classroom. This is Daria Polatin’s debut novel and I’m looking forward to what she comes out with next.