“Italian class. The shining highlight of my Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.”
Cynthia (Cyn) is the star of Michelle Knudsen‘s Evil Librarian (Candlewick Press, 2014), and her life is that of relative teenage normalcy; she’s head of the stage crew for her high school’s production of Sweeney Todd, she and her best friend, Annie, are teenage-girl inseparable, and she has a monstrous crush on Ryan Halsey, who also just happens to have the lead roll as the demon barber of Fleet Street. Everything is normal, that is, until the new librarian arrives. He’s preternaturally hot and almost instantly pulls pure-hearted Annie under his highly inappropriate sway. This would be alarming enough, but Cyn soon realizes that the librarian isn’t just hot and vaguely creepy, he also isn’t human, and he’s hell bent on sucking the souls out of everyone in her high school to fulfill his demonly schemes. Fortunately for her, Ryan is the only other person who seems to be aware of the demonic happenings that are afoot, and it’s up to them to stop it all, by golly.
Holy crap, this book is fun. There’s all sorts of librarian humor, and fun characters, and demons who also do presentations on the Dewey Decimal System, and Sweeney Todd, and witty humor galore, and a tone that feels truly teen, and and and. Just so much fun. It felt a bit like reading an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned.
Despite all the fun trappings of the story, Knudsen did a few things well enough that I feel the need to comment on them. One, Cynthia’s voice was so spot and and perfectly teen without being unreadable. Her almost blind, selfless devotion to her best friend, her total inability to function in the face of a crush, her constantly running inner monologue of insecurities and uncertainties, it all felt a bit like Knudsen siphoned out some of my own experiences as a teenage girl, but who am I kidding: I wasn’t that unique, and so what I think I am trying to say is that she perfectly captured the universal voice of being a teenage girl. Or, maybe the slightly misfit-ish teenage girl. That might be more accurate.
The crush was also super fun and realistic. I remember all too well the feeling of becoming fixated on someone I didn’t actually know, and spending an embarrassing amount of brain power on analyzing their every micro-move to figure out whether that person maybe sort of liked me or not. This might sound like it could read as annoying, but Cynthia is so clever and borderline raunchy that it’s actually a blast to revisit that mental state. Plus, as they get to know each other the growing attraction feels well-earned, so that eventually whenever they get page time together (a lot!) I found myself rooting for them TO JUST FREAKING KISS ALREADY. Isn’t that a fun way to feel when reading? I think so.
All of the demons were hilarious, and Knudsen used a classic Joss Whedon technique in combining demonic elements with the absurdly every day aspects of being human. Plus, I mean, come on. The main villain is a DEMON LIBRARIAN. How could I NOT love this book? I mean, unless it sucked, then I wouldn’t love it, but, huzzah! It doesn’t suck, at all.
Bottom line: this book is a blast. Is it highbrow literature? Hell no, but it’s a really, really, really good specimen of what it is, which is a smart, campy popcorn read that is scrumptious til the last page.
For music, I obviously have to feature something from Sweeney Todd, so here you go, little babies.
Where I got it: the library