Title: Within These Wicked Walls
Author: Lauren Blackwood
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publishing Date: 2021
Genre/Format of the Item: Book
Reese’s Book Club Fall 2021 YA Pick
Reading Level/Interest Level:
Grades 9-12 (NoveList)
Plot Summary: Andromeda has been trained as a deftera by the only parental figure she has ever known. Unfortunately, before she could become a licensed exorcist, Jember threw her out of his house to live on the streets. Andromeda has the chance to prove her worth and gain experience in her field by working to rid Mangus Rochester and his mansion of the Evil Eye. She is the eleventh deftera to attempt this job with Mangus and she quickly realizes that she may be in over her head. As Andromeda slowly begins to navigate the social strata of the other workers, her attraction to Mangus grows into more than just friendship. Andromeda finds herself in the middle of a love triangle with Mangus and Kelela, Marcus’s attorney’s sister.
As Andromeda gets closer to finding a way to expel the Evil Eye, she must also find a way to convince Jember to help her. Andromeda attempts a cleansing but fails and loses someone in the process. Andromeda finally acknowledges her feelings for Marcus and is adamant that she must save him. She devises a plan that might just work, if all of the pieces fall into place. Andromeda begins to trust herself and her abilities and is determined to fight for what she loves.
Author Background: Lauren Blackwood is a Jamaican American writer who currently resides in Virginia. Within These Wicked Walls is Blackwood’s first novel (Blackwood, n.d.). Blackwood calls herself an “underwriter” and prefers to write a brief version of her books and then expand on what proves to be the most successful and interesting for her (Dumpleton, 2021).
Critical Evaluations: This book is an interesting mix of horror and romance. Andromeda is a likeable character with a fascinating job. As a deftera, she is hired to expel the Evil Eye (evil spirits) from people and objects, including houses. I liked that the author chose to create diverse characters with both strengths and flaws. I think that this makes the characters very relatable and more human-like (even with the element of fantasy intertwined in the story). I am not a big fan of horror, but I found that this book was so much more than just scary gore. There are interpersonal relationships that keep the story engaging and interesting. I think that the relationship between Jember and Andromeda is very much like a child-parent bond and I think that teens will be able to relate to their communication challenges. The romance between Andromeda and Marcus happens very fast but it is believable, given both of their circumstances and personalities. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I think that many teens will also.
Creative Use for a Library Program: This book could be on display during the month of October and specifically during a teen evening program. This teen evening program could be an escape room for teens that features evil spirits. This would be held at the library on a Saturday night and after the escape room there could be a small time for food and socializing and teen horror books would be out and on display.
Speedround/Book Trailer: Andromeda is an exorcist of the Evil Eye, only she hasn’t quite finished her training. When hired to do a job that ten other exorcists couldn’t handle, she finds herself quickly in over her head and head over heels in love with the man who hired her. Can Andromeda find a way to cure this house, or will this be the end of her? Read Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood to find out more!
Potential Challenge Issues/Defense Preparations: This book contains somewhat graphic content describing bodily mutilation by an evil spirit in the form of an animal. The graphic images and the concept of a religion endorsing exorcism may cause some challenges. I would defend this book as an appropriate level of horror for a teenager. This book offers an interesting premise with diverse characters.
Reason for Inclusion: I wanted to include a book from the horror genre in my collection. I liked that this book is written by a Jamaican American woman and the main character is a woman of color. I think that it is important to have a collection with diverse authors and characters.
Blackwood, L. [@LJ_Blackwood]. (2022, June 28). Lauren says preorder Wildblood. @Wednesday Books, @ triadus [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/LJ_Blackwood
Blackwood, L. (n.d.). About. https://www.laurenblackwood.com/about
Dumpleton, E. (2021, October 12). Q & A. Lauren Blackwood, author of Within these wicked walls. Nerd Daily. https://thenerddaily.com/lauren-blackwood-author-interview/
Still Waiting for my Satyr. (2022, January 6). Within these wicked walls: Spoiler free book review [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1l2fv7DxY4