Written by Micol Ostow, and illustrated by David Ostow (siblings or spouses, I am not sure), The Devil and Winnie Flynn would look to be something I might dig. Teenage Winnie’s mother has just died, apparently of a suicide, and Winnie is whisked off to work with her mom’s long-estranged sister Maggie, host and producer of a popular reality horror show, Fantastic Fearsome, as they search for the Jersey Devil. Winnie herself is a fan of horror movies and knows the tropes, but doesn’t believe for a second in the actual supernatural. What happens when she is confronted by evidence to suggest there’s more to life than she has been led to believe?
Well, that should have gotten my attention, but didn’t. Explanations and SPOILERS after the cut.
Most of the book was written in the style of a series of letters or journals by Winnie to her best friend Lucia back in Seattle. We’re introduced early on to the crew for Aunt Maggie’s show, including a trio of “Devil Hunters,” some young Jerseyians (Jerseyites?) who hunt the Jersey Devil on their own. The group travels to different locations around the state, and as native and former resident of said state, I can attest to the accuracy of much of where they go. But the book just did not work for me.
Part of it was actually not the author’s fault. I had purchased it under the impression from an Entertainment Weekly online preview that it was a graphic novel. While David’s illustrations are great, they are few and far between in many cases. The bulk of the book is Winnie’s writing, spaced out with occasional transcripts from the show. So, not really a graphic novel.
But that’s not the real problem. The problem was, for whatever reason, the formatting on my Kindle was all kinds of screwed up. Spacing between words was often nonexistent, such that I had to really concentrate on what words were appearing where just to follow the book. In a couple cases, including the last few paragraphs, the pictures appeared to block out sections of the text. The first time that happened, the two page spread had one thin column of words on the left hand side, and not all the words either, and a single picture taking up the lower right hand of the opposing page (my Kindle automatically went to a two-page spread for the book unless I double-tapped the page to get a close-up, but that didn’t solve the spacing issue and made turning pages harder for some reason). I really don’t know what happened, but I am hoping for the sake of readers that anyone who gets a print copy of this book gets the right formatting.
But as much as the spacing was giving me a headache, that wasn’t the only problem. Most of the cast were rather bland. I really didn’t know who half the characters working on the show were. Few had any distinctive personality quirks (Maggie had a habit of addressing people as different kinds of snack food), and I didn’t get a sense of interest in any, outside of Winnie herself, and Winnie of course had all her words running together. The ending, when the Jersey Devil may actually make an appearance, was actually rather anti-climactic. Something happens, we are told it happened, but that’s it. Cut to the premier party in Atlantic City and a flier for the show’s next trip, this one to Mexico.
So, a decent mystery and a fun premise was dragged down by bad formatting on my e-reader and a bad ending. I’m gonna give this one a solid one out of ten Devil Hunters. It probably would have been better if I could have actually, you know, been able to read it.