Kirsten Reviews: The Devil's Mixtape

, by Kt Clapsadl

The Devil's Mixtape by Mary Borsellino
In 1999, Ella was one of three students who arrived at her Denver school with a cache of weapons and a plan to use them. Years later, she sifts through accounts of other violent young women, writing letters to a little sister who had to grow up in the aftermath of that day.

In 1952, Sally was a runaway, hitch-hiking around Australia with a strange, secretive girl named Amy. Each outcasts in their own way, the pair navigate a landscape scarred by old memories and tragedies, searching for a place that will feel like safety and home.

And in 2011, Charlotte was a music journalist on tour with a band, listening to their stories of loss and hope. Though they are in very different times and places, the three are linked by a web of legacies and second chances.

Demons, fallen soldiers, hunters, rock & roll stars, and high-school heartbreaks are all thrown together. The result could never be anything but the Devil's mixtape.

YA and dark fantasy writer Borsellino (Wolf House, 2010, etc.) is known for combining her love of music with the fraught journey of adolescence, and her latest work continues this trend.

Each chapter is told from the perspective of a young woman, from three distinct periods of time. Ella, Sally, and Charlotte may have lived in different decades, but as the plot develops, a reader realizes that they are all linked by a single legacy and the aftermath of decisions made years ago. The book delves into the emotions of teenagers and young adults with a frankness that does not shy away from the emotional extremes that those years bring. The storyline feels unconnected at times, but if a reader is willing to invest in the blend of teenagers, rock and roll, and even demons, then they will find that all the elements are united with a common theme over the course of the narrative. It should be noted that the novel's subject matter may be disturbing to some readers. One of the characters' passages are an attempt to explain her violent actions to a family member. This section of the book is given the same focus as any other, and anyone who is uncomfortable with school violence may want to skip over this part. The tragedy is not glorified in any way, but rather presented from one character's perspective and later reflected on from that of another woman. In this way, you see the way that one person's actions affect other people, and the ways in which they try to move on with their lives. The novel focuses as much on Australia as it does on the intertwined story lines, transforming Australia itself into a character as vibrant as the protagonists. The result of this is that the extremes of the landscape and sometimes oppressive weight of the sun are excellent counterpoints to the stories of three women searching for a way to move on from tragedy.

Intense, with heroines that defy the traditional mold, and an unflinching look at the battlefield of teenagers everywhere.


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