"Damned If You Do" is a wild ride from beginning to end. When teenager Cordelia Scott makes a deal with a demon to banish her abusive father, she doesn't expect that she will one day be tasked with stopping another demon -- or risk losing her soul forever. While the subject matter doesn't exactly scream "feel-good romantic comedy," it's more fun than the threat of hellfire would suggest and is reminiscent of '90s supernatural shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Charmed." And did we mention that there's an aswang?
"Damned If You Do" is spooky enough that you might want to whisper "tabi tabi po" into its pages just to be safe, but lighthearted enough for a beach read. Cordelia Scott is a delightful heroine who is just trying to get through tech week -- AKA Hell Week, for the theater kids in the audience. The FilAm teen is also struggling to keep her grades up and pining for her BFF, Veronica. Throw in Fred, a demon with a heart of gold masquerading as a school guidance counselor, and the cast and crew of the school play Cordelia is stage managing, and you've got a healthy dose of drama and romance with a haunting backdrop.
Author Alex Brown's prose lights up the page. Steeped in Catholic imagery and Filipino folklore, "Damned If You Do" will feel deliciously daring to those who grew up with a reverence for the Church and a respect for things that go bump in the night. While there are mentions of abuse they aren't graphic and, while Cordelia's supernatural deal isn't realistic, her ongoing recovery from trauma and grief is, providing heartwarming catharsis.
Overall, "Damned If You Do" is an enjoyable read for anyone, but Filipinos -- especially Filipinos with fond memories of their high school drama club -- will be particularly delighted with the story.