Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White is a new take on an old concept, biblically accurate angels. The horror that is Benji’s transformation is multi-layered and fascinating.
Sixteen-year-old trans boy Benji is on the run from the cult that raised him—the fundamentalist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population. Desperately, he searches for a place where the cult can’t get their hands on him, or more importantly, on the bioweapon they infected him with.
But when cornered by monsters born from the destruction, Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, affectionately known as the ALC. The ALC’s leader, Nick, is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly shot, and he knows Benji’s darkest secret: the cult’s bioweapon is mutating him into a monster deadly enough to wipe humanity from the earth once and for all.
Still, Nick offers Benji shelter among his ragtag group of queer teens, as long as Benji can control the monster and use its power to defend the ALC. Eager to belong, Benji accepts Nick’s terms…until he discovers the ALC’s mysterious leader has a hidden agenda, and more than a few secrets of his own.
“Here’s the thing about being raised an Angel: You don’t process grief.”
All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may or may not reflect the published edition.
White did a fascinating job of creating an end of the world environment that was both haunting and realistic. The likelihood of a Christian terrorist group taking control of society due to some sort of pandemic situation doesn’t seem too far-fetched- especially due to the current climate of things. Admittedly, though, the writing did make it difficult at times to understand fully what’s occurring. The prose made flashbacks and interpersonal conversations somewhat hard to follow at times. I was able to process it, but it wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked.
“Are you a monster because you were an Angel,” he says, “or because you’re Seraph?”
The way the characters in this book are fleshed out was something that I found enjoyable. They each had their own backstories, identities, and ideals. As Benji navigates being out of the cult-like religion for the first time in years, he has to navigate new people with their experiences as well. However, the formatting of the eArc did make it somewhat difficult to differentiate between Nick and Benji’s chapters, especially because these chapters read so similarly.
“I was supposed to be good, and I ruined everything because I was lovesick and selfish.”
The concept of a trans boy also being a monster boy, experiencing that dysmorphia on multiple levels was genuinely interesting. As I mentioned before, this world and the two opposing forces genuinely created a plot worth following. I liked the way the pacing of this progressed, as well as the reveal about Nick towards the midway point. The ending did get a little muddled, especially as we follow Benji’s narrative more often. As he turned into a monster, the internal dialogue was somewhat more difficult to follow.
“I will rip salvation from their hands because that is what it means for them to suffer.”
This book caught me by surprise with the interweaving of horror and religious trauma. My biggest critiques are concerns that possibly people without a religious background wouldn’t get the full impact of the horror. Additionally, the derailing of the internal narration led to some confusion, which I would have preferred somewhat more of an understanding of.
“The good the world needs right now is teeth and claws and a taste for blood. I am going to shatter them, and I will be the vengeance of God, I will.”
Overall, this was a fascinating take on things and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It now lives in my head rent-free, not gonna lie!
Thank you to Netgalley and Peachtree for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.