Give the Kids Fangs and Claws: Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White

A copy of Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White.
Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White

Genre: YA Horror
Available on Bookshop.Org*

Hell Followed With Us was one of my most anticipated 2022 reads, for good reason. It's one part post-apocalyptic zombie novel, one exploration of religious trauma, and one part queer rage. The novel begins with Benji, a 16-year-old trans boy, running away from a Christian death cult with his dad. He quickly ends up on his own. Eventually, he finds the remnants of an queer youth center and joins with them to survive. However, what the other queer youth don't know is that Benji was experimented on prior to leaving his cult. This cult, the Angels, had unleashed a disease called the Flood that turned people into "graces", zombie-like creatures with angelic overtones. Benji was meant to be the Seraph, a more refined version of a grace to lead the Angels in final purification of the earth.

From the first chapter, the book's refrain is "Be good. Make them suffer." This is woven throughout, as Benji struggles with being able to trust his new-found allies (who don't know he's a former Angel or that he's slowly transforming into the Seraph). Benji, who had been raised to be obedient, still struggles to match these two together: how can you be good while resisting a genocide?

This feels like such a good theme (particularly for a YA book) for the current moment. In addition, it has COVID pandemic touches that don't feel too overt, but do feel like it's grappling with the reality I'm struggling to process. The disease that caused the zombification is partially airborne, so there's moments of conflicts between the queer youth and other surviving groups around disease safety. While it doesn't at all "COVID sucks, right?", it gets to conflict that the pandemic has exposed between people who feel like the systems in place will save them and those that know they will be abandoned.

Beyond these major themes, the book is a punchy post-apoc novel with a good amount of action, gore, and dramatic tension. I found it to be a rich text to read, as the different layers to the book means I'll be able to find something new to think about with each read. In my first read through, I really thought a lot about the transformation process Benji was undergoing and my feelings around puberty and adulthood gender transition. However, I was really reading this book for that type of content, and I'm looking forward to seeing what I spot on a second read.

Content Notes:

The author provided the following content warning at the start of this book: "The book contains depiction of graphic violence, transphobia, domestic and religious abuse, self-injury, and attempted suicide."

Representation Notes:

  • Trans boy main character
  • Autistic love interest
  • Wide range of queer secondary characters, including POC characters and additional trans characters
  • White, autistic trans author

Next Week's Review: The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System, Vol 1

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