"A love letter to all your favorite horror movie classics . . . Micol Ostow's razor sharp writing and David Ostow's wonderful illustrations combine for an unforgettable reading experience."
—Courtney Summers, author of This Is Not a Test and All the Rage
Winnie Flynn doesn’t believe in ghosts. (Though she wouldn’t mind a visit from her mom, explaining why she took her own life.) When her mysterious aunt Maggie, a high-profile TV producer, recruits Winnie to spend a summer working as a production assistant on her current reality hit, Fantastic, Fearsome, she suddenly finds herself in the one place her mother would never go: New Jersey.
New Jersey’s famous Devil makes perfect fodder for Maggie’s show. But as the filming progresses, Winnie sees and hears things that make her think that the Devil might not be totally fake after all. Things that involve her and her family. Things about her mother’s death that might explain why she’s never met Aunt Maggie until now.
Winnie soon discovers her family’s history is deeply entwined with the Devil’s. If she’s going to make it out of the Pine Barrens alive, she might have to start believing in what her aunt is telling her—and find out what she isn’t.
From the Hardcover edition.
|Publisher:||Soho Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Age Range:||14 Years|
About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
"The devil hunters are here for wardrobe."
A small, wiry woman with frizzy, loose-cotton hair darts toward me. Jane, is what her name is. Production manager, which means she’s the boss. Right under Aunt Maggie, anyway, who is basically the boss of this whole weirdo world. Jane is wearing a headset, which should communicate no nonsense, but it’s hard to take hair like that seriously. It’s hard to take any of this seriously, Lu. Impossible, really. Which is weird, since I’m usually such a serious person.
The Devil Hunters are here for wardrobe. Hearing that, I expect a pack of goth, Ghostbuster-types to stride into our cluster of motel rooms turned makeshift production offices. Powder-white faces, streaky eyeliner, leather, and lace—even in June, in South Jersey—and maybe some backpack-style, strap-on, air-ion counter. Something bulky and pseudoscientific, is what I mean, Lu. Something impressive in its commitment to the absurd.
Remember that movie we saw? The one about the ghost hunters, the one that wasn’t Ghostbusters? I know you do—with those self-proclaimed mediums. Their video cameras, and their overinflated egos.
It takes a lot to assume, Lu. That if there are spirits, that if the voices of the undead or whoever, that if they really are out there . . . it’s a lot to assume that they’d be hanging out just waiting for you, Mr. and Mrs. Very Special Psychic, to come knocking. That kind of thinking takes real chutzpah, you know?
But when the lobby door does open, my assumptions vanish in a cough of wet sea-smell laced with the tang of greasy-delicious boardwalk food.
These people actually look kind of normal. Sort of. As normal as a group of “Devil Hunters” can be, anyway.
There are three of them, a little bit older than we are. Two college students with the world’s weirdest summer internship, one high schooler with no discernable reason for being here that I can see. Two guys and a girl, and nary an airion counter or a trace of eyeliner to be found among them. (Maybe they’re in a car trunk somewhere nearby.) Okay, so the girl’s hair, chin-length and vivid black, is streaked with bold blue stripes that demand attention.
I take an instant dislike to those bold blue stripes. It isn’t nice or particularly open-minded, but I do, Lu. You know I
don’t trust people who demand attention.
The other two are more low-key. Boy-like with a touch of nerd, in that way: faded T-shirts bearing obscure sci-fi references, frayed cargo shorts. All of those pockets make me wonder again about ghost-hunting equipment: minuscule, feather-light flashlights, recording devices, whatever the paranormal equivalent of mace may be. The shorter and squatter of the two wears flip-flops. This is even less appealing to me than blue-streaked hair, though at least his toenails are clipped short and reasonably clean. He’s the younger one. His hair is an explosion of curls with no place to grow but out. Maybe that’s why he’s here, with this group. Maybe with hair like that, his options were limited.
The taller of the two—the older guy—has his hair tied back in a ponytail, which . . . you know where I stand on that. He looks nice, though—his shoulders strain against his T-shirt in tight little peaks. This endears me for some reason, so I decide to do my best to reserve judgment on his hairstyle.
We’ll see. At least this one’s hair grows down, anyway.
Ponytail catches me staring, offers an uncertain smile, then flushes and stares at a point on the floor.
“Winnie,” Jane says. I’d forgotten she was there. I almost jump. “Can you take the Devil Hunters to wardrobe?”
I would, I really would. Except:
We don’t have wardrobe.
I’ve been a production assistant, or PA, at Fantastic, Fearsome for a hot minute, but this I know is true. Maybe there’s a rolling garment rack in Aunt Maggie’s room, the executive suite (which sounds much fancier than it is). But if so, I haven’t seen it.
It’s reality TV. People wear their real clothes. Right?
“Maggie,” Jane clarifies, accurately interpreting my confounded look. “She wanted to meet them in person, check out their style before filming starts. We’ve only seen the audition tapes.” (Wait—was I supposed to watch the audition tapes?) She throws an approving side-eye at Blue Hair. “She’ll like that dye job. Very punk rock.”
Maybe in 1992. I think this as loudly as I can, sending it through the psychic space you and I share, Lu. And I think there’s a little ping where my ribs knit together that tells me you heard me, you’re laughing. Loudly. Even if that’s only in my mind, it feels true enough.
But Jane is still waiting on me.
“Right,” I say.
Aunt Maggie. My mother’s older sister.
We’ve only just met in person recently, ourselves.
If this were the first act of a horror movie, Maggie would be the boogeyman.
That long-lost relative who steps out of the woodwork after a loved one dies unexpectedly. It barely qualifies as a trope anymore; these days, that’s just lazy writing. Second only to the invitation-from-a-reclusive-billionaire-to-spend-aweekend-in-his-hilltop-mansion premise. So tired. Don’t even do it, kids. That’s what you’d say. That game never ends well. Ix-nay on the ansion-may.
But the thing about Maggie is that she’s the creator, director, and producer of the Fantastic, Fearsome US™ series. Eight seasons and counting, syndicated, spin-offs sold to thirteen different countries. She probably sleeps on a bed of solid gold. She knows the tropes, better than you and I do, I bet—makes her living off of the best of them. She’s not the enemy. I don’t think. And anyway, this isn’t a horror movie, it’s reality TV. Which is so, so much scarier, Lu.
Maggie’s suite, with its sitting area and dinette table, and the giant white board propped against the wall, is just through motel reception and to the right. I’m not sure why the Devil Hunters need a private escort to a room that’s maybe twenty feet from where we stand. But I guess when you’re the big boss, you can’t just have the talent traipsing in and out of your office unaccompanied.
Maggie doesn’t seem that big on ceremony thus far, but maybe it’s different if you’re family. Even if you’re semiestranged family who’ve gone seventeen years without any contact.
I rise and nod, slightly nervous but trying to cover, at the Hunters. “I’ll take you,” I say, mostly in Ponytail’s direction. “Follow me.”
As I look at Ponytail, I stumble so my hip jostles the corner of a magazine rack. The crumpled, faded pamphlets detailing Dining Highlights of Ocean Grove! (of which, presumably, there are myriad) go flying.
Tomorrow I’ll have a weird-shaped bruise on my too-pale skin. I wonder, fleetingly, how any one person could possibly be so incapable of normal human interaction. The look that Blue Hair gives me suggests that she is wondering the very same thing.
But Lu, please don't tell me to take it easy, because you know I never do.
I crack the door from reception to the outer breezeway and muster as much dignity as I can (it’s not much). When I step outside onto the pavement, they do follow, so at least that’s something.
THE AIR OUTSIDE THE motel is only slightly less suffocating. Though oddly the cigarette smell is stronger. I concentrate on the worn laces of my sneakers. They’re not going to be great for off-road running, when we get to the Barrens later. But they’re my oldest, most favorite pair of running shoes, lucky shoes, you might say, and that has to count for something. Comfort, familiarity—they’re important. A girl can only take so much transition at one time, you know?
(Of course you know. You’re the one who thought this trip would be good for me, just the right kind of transition, after the past few months.)
“So, you’re a PA? You don’t seem like someone who’d be into this show,” Blue Hair observes, making it sound very definitively like an insult. I don’t even know what someone who’d be into Fantastic, Fearsome would be like, Lu, except I guess maybe there’s a presumption of hair dye involved.
“I like horror,” I tell her, “movies. Stories,” even though that’s: 1) an acute understatement, and 2) our dirty little secret, Lu. Yours and mine, kind of our thing. The campier, the better. Call it escapism.
“Stories.” Blue Hair’s word comes out in a hiss. “But you don’t, like, believe in ghosts.” She makes it sound like a veiled threat. Maybe it is. I guess a self-identified Devil Hunter would see it that way, anyway.
“The truth is out there.”
This is from the littlest one, the puffy-haired boy with watery eyes and no chin to speak of. He shrugs and turns pink, like he can’t believe he actually spoke out loud, and I want to cringe for him because for a moment he seems very worried about how Blue Hair will react to his outburst. There, there, I think. If she’s that “punk rock,” she’s surely overcompensating for something.
I deflect. “You’re a believer. But you get paid to do the series, right?” It comes out a touch more aggressively than intended. She bristles. “We’re very committed to our science,” she says, matching my tone. “We believe in the Jersey Devil, and the rich paranormal history of the Garden State.”
“Right. But still. You do get paid. Right?”
They do. I’ve faxed, copied, and emailed the budget reports myself. The show pays for the on-air “experts,” not that this girl could possibly be a legitimate expert in anything other than Being the Worst. I don’t even know what I’m trying to prove by pushing the point.
Ponytail laughs, then covers his mouth like he’s surprised by his own reaction. He doesn’t look up when Blue Hair and I both whirl toward him in perfect synchronicity.
The door to Maggie’s suite swings open.
“Is that the Devil Hunters, Winnie?” Maggie’s voice is low and smoky, commanding and disembodied, like Dorothy’s Wizard, ensconced firmly behind his curtain.
“It is,” I reply. I’m embarrassed by the catch in my voice, a high-pitched squeak so unlike Maggie’s sultry tenor. Did my mother have a voice like Maggie’s, or like mine? Suddenly, I can’t remember. I guess the little details are the easiest to lose hold of.
“Well, send them in,” she continues as though I’d actually need to issue a separate directive to them. Like they aren’t standing right exactly next to me. “I want to have a look at them.” She makes it sound as though they aren’t people at all, but artifacts, non-sentient beings. Lab rats. Talent. An object, not an adjective or a proper noun.
Blue Hair shoves past me. It doesn’t bother me as much as I think she wants it to, though it does bother me a little, if we’re going to be perfectly honest here, Lu. And then the other guy goes in behind her, and then it’s just Ponytail and me, not-looking at each other in the most active, most intense way two people can not-do anything. For a moment I think he’s going to say something to me, but then there’s a shout—“Seth!” from inside the trailer, and I guess Seth is him, that’s who he is, and in he goes, to “wardrobe.”
And suddenly, I can’t remember what those people wore in that movie. The one we watched that time.
How is a ghost hunter supposed to dress, Lu?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.5 Stars The Devil and Winnie Flynn is the ultimate book to get you ready for Halloween! Written as a letter, this book has such an amazing and unique concept that I loved every minute of. However, towards the end of the book, there was far too much paranormal for my taste, despite the fact that the whole book is paranormal. The Devil and Winnie Flynn is written in a very mysterious way that really suits the book. It is told as a letter from the main character to a friend. I’ve always liked this idea because it gives the story an actual purpose to be told in the first person. Winnie is writing to her friend,Lu, about all her paranormal experiences that occur throughout this book while she is on set of her aunt’s TV show. At first, I found it strange that the book is written as a letter, but once you get into it, it becomes really enjoyable. The plot of this story is quit unique. It is about a girl who is helping to produce a TV show, which she doesn’t want to do. I found this to be a really interesting change from other TV show books where the main character is the star. What Sets this book apart is the concept of how Winnie’s role on the show reflects her personality. She is more of a behind the scenes kind of girl, than one demanding attention all the time. I always love when books show characters’ identities through their work. Possibly, my experience in the paranormal genre is not that broad, because this book gets so paranormal it becomes too much. The beginning of the novel starts off fine, but then the story seems to veer off in all sorts of paranormal directions. Without spoiling the book, the ending just seemed to scatter all over the place. I think the book would have been much better without that whole section. I honestly loved everything else about The Devil and Winnie Flynn, but the intensity of the paranormal lost me. The Devil and Winnie Flynn is told as a letter and has a very fascinating TV show concept. Unfortunately, the levels of paranormal were too high for me to enjoy the rest of the book. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Miss Peregrine’s, though, because there are many similar elements .
A kind of coming of age story for the main character, Winnie, who learns about herself and her past while dabbling into her aunt's paranormal world. There is an interesting look into the details and making of a ghostbuster/hunter hit tv show with references to current paranormal related films and culture. Illustrations are sprinkled throughout the book as an extra treat for the eyes. I found this story to be more mystery than spooky horror.