I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Star Rating: ★★★★★
What would you do if you found out your grandfather was actually over 200 years old and had been friends with the Devil for the majority of his life?
That’s the situation Hannah Green finds herself in during Hannah Green And Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence. Amidst the falling apart of her parents marriage, she has to travel from one end of California to the other (with a quick trip to Siberia), to help the Devil figure out where all the evil energy from the world is going, because he’s sure as hell not getting any of it (pun definitely intended).
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I started this book as I hadn’t realised it was YA. I don’t know if it’s definitely meant to be YA, but it has some tendencies towards the genre.
But I need to stop being so damn judgemental against some genres because I bloody loved this book. It was amazing. The first thing that came into my mind was that it’s a mix between Terry Pratchett and Roald Dahl, with a little bit of Jasper Fforde thrown in for good measure. If you don’t think that’s a fantastic combination then you shouldn’t be allowed to read books ( I jest, everyone should be allowed to read books, no matter their awful opinions).
It’s easy to compare this to Terry Pratchett and books like Soul Music; the link between evil and grandfathers is apparent in both. But the difference is that the Devil is nowhere near as likeable as Pratchett’s Death. He is most definitely evil, taking pleasure in the discomfort, pain and death of people on Earth. But what Michael Marshall Smith manages to do is make him still somewhat appealing. He’s the bad guy but you’re still gonna like him, and root for him. His dry wit is also hilarious and makes you look forward to all his scenes.
He’s not the only character that has more depth than you might think. Hannah herself is a fantastic narrator. Children come with the danger of being too precocious and annoying, and Hannah’s demanding and inquisitive nature had the possibility of being just that. But she’s not, she’s actually ridiculously endearing. She’s very smart and determined, even when the adults around her are dithering a bit. She’s not afraid to ask the questions that we all want to know the answers to.
Her parents are possibly the most relatable of all the characters. Their situation is heartbreaking and so real that it’s hard not to sympathise with them. They’re in the process of splitting up, but it’s not a dramatic ending. It’s clearly been a slow release, they’ve been drifting apart for a while and it just needed one of them taking the first step of admitting it and walking away. The fact that there’s no huge fight, and no one to blame, makes their relationship so much more accessible. Everyone has been in a relationship like that with someone in their life.
It’s these more human parts of the book that make it all the more enjoyable. These are the mundane parts of Hannah’s life that she cares more about than the supernatural goings-on around her. It’s ultimately a story about a family trying to work out who they are and how to deal with life., it just happens to be told through demons and Hellish themes.
There’s not too much more I can say about this book without giving too much away. But one thing I do want to talk about is Smith’s writing. It’s stunning. There are no other words for it. It’s just stunning. His descriptions are so unusual, yet make so much sense, it’s amazing.
‘An odour came off the gate. Acrid but insidious, the kind of smell that would pick your pocket rather than rob you at gunpoint.’
‘They felt like the emptiness in the last drawer you check when you’ve been searching for something you loved but which is now lost.’
They’re the kind of descriptions that make the writer in me so happy to read them, while being so jealous that I’m never going to be able to come up with something as good.
Basically, this book is genius. Just read it. Stop reading reviews for it and just read the damn book. Now.