If turning 16 isn’t sufficiently awkward, try doing it as a half-demon, motherless vagabond with an aloof father too protective to tell you that a hellish being is set on annihilating you. Really, Misfit is understating the case just a bit.
Catholic schoolgirl Jael picks up some significant allies in her plunge into self-knowledge, most notably thoughtful skater Rob and her newly discovered Uncle Dagon, an astonishingly cuddly demon. Here, Jon Skovron touches on religion, celebrity and the staying power of Sigourney Weaver.
Find more great mysteries & thrillers among our 2011 Best Books for Teens.
In reference to beliefs, Rob says, “You believe things to justify what you do.” Who abuses this mentality?
There will always be people whose espoused beliefs are little more than justifications for self-serving actions. Like say, for example, a president using people’s fear of terrorism and religious extremism to justify the invasion of a Third World country. The fact is that throughout its long history, religion has always been used as a means of controlling “the masses.”
But we can look at this concept another way, too. When Rob says, “You believe things to justify what you do,” he’s not really offering it up as a mentality or a particular mode of thinking that you may or may not choose to subscribe to. Instead, he suggests that it's an intrinsic aspect of human nature. Whether we know it or not, it is something that we all do. If you act confident, eventually you believe you are confident, and therefore you become confident. In a very real sense, you can influence the person you believe yourself to be by changing your actions.
You’ve included an opening quote: “The gods of the old religion become the demons of the new religion.” What gods today will be tomorrow’s demons?
What we’re talking about here is demonizing or portraying another person, group or culture as wicked and threatening. It’s used as a way to make your own person, group or culture look more appealing by drawing up the sides in stark good and evil, obviously with your side as “good.” This technique can be used to oppress minorities, like depicting homosexuals as deviants or black men as violent.
As for today’s “gods,” which might become demons, one of the biggest battles right now seems to be between religion and science. Religion has a long, sordid history of war, oppression and genocide, so it’s pretty easy to demonize. Then again, lots of terrible things have also been done in the name of science. But they’ve both accomplished many wonderful things as well. The power between the two is pretty balanced. I think it’s going to take something pretty significant to tip the balance one way or the other. Or maybe, just maybe, they could live in harmony? I know, that’s crazy talk...
My personal vote for god ousting is the cult of celebrity. The obsession and near worship of famous people simply because they are famous is escapism of the worst and most destructive kind. It degrades your own self worth and gives too much power to people who either don’t want it or shouldn’t have it. If we put all that energy and fascination into the real people of our everyday lives, everyday life would be so much cooler. Hey, check it out! I just demonized celebrity culture!
What do you say to a potential male audience who might turn up their nose to a lead female character—albeit an incredibly powerful, fireball-wielding half-demon character?
Well, there are a lot of strong supporting male characters like Rob the skater scientist, Paul the ex-monk/retired demon hunter and Dagon the um…baker of Hell. Three of the chapters are even told from Paul’s point of view. So I think male readers will find plenty of characters to relate to. But really, I’ve always considered kickass female protagonists to be a staple of books and movies, probably ever since Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley shoved that alien out the airlock. I mean, come on, guys! Cool chicks and monsters! What’s not to love?