Title:Hell Followed with Us
Author: Andrew Joseph White
What's it about?
Benji isn't like other teens. He was raised for years in a extremally religious cult, he's been infected with a virus that will turn him into what is expected to be the king of monsters that will lead the cult paradise and he's trans. The only person he felt like saw him at all was his dad but he was shot dead in the escape attempt him and Benji set into motion. Benji made it.
Then he accidently finds himself with a group of LGBTQIA+ survivors that somehow managed to survive Judgment Day which killed most of the humane race, but his new friends don't know who and what he is. They don't know that he's infecting and becoming more and more of a monster every day. They don't know that he was one of the so called Angels who the group of teens have been killing on sight to ensure their survival for one more day. They don't know that by joining forces with Benji, they have become even bigger targets and not everyone will make it.
But Benji understand some of it. But how can he balance the world's fate on his shoulders when he has no idea who he can trust and who wants him dead or returned to the cult that abused him so? How can he protect those who need it when he's got to hide what he is?
Little is final but nothing is easy.
Favorite Character: Nick was my favorite almost from the start, which is odd because I also didn't trust him most of the time, either. Nick is the kid who found Benji and decided to take him in, even when he found out wha Benji was. He also happens to be the second in charge of the group which functions more like a village then a group, and he also happens to be Autistic. I didn't always like the choices he made but there was always something about him that I was drawn to, one aspect being that while his Autism did effect him and did play it' sown little roles in the story and how things played out sometimes, but it wasn't everything. It wasn't his whole personality or even the focus, it was just a part of him and I loved that representation.
Least Favorite Character: I feel like this choice is a little personal and maybe petty but Theo. I disliked him the second we found out how he treated Benji before he escaped, how he had abused him and belittled him. At that point, there was nothing he could say or do to make me trust him or like him. Nothing. I know that he's not the only one who mistreated Benji. I know that there are a number of people within the Angels that I'm not supposed to like, and I don't like them, trust me, but as much as I want to say I dislike others more, I can't His treatment of Benji even before we meet them was enough to make him my least favorite from the start.
Favorite Part: There's this part where Benji and Nick are talking and Nick is trying to comfort Benji as Benji experiences some things that he's never experienced before. It literally brought tears to my eyes. It was so sweet, so heart felt, so real and so beautiful and as the mother of at least 1 kiddo with autism, I've been in and witnessed similar moments that are just everything. I don't think I have the words to explain it, but it was also the moment I knew that it would take a lot for Nick to lose his spot as my favorite. Like almost impossible a lot.
Least Favorite Part: I have to go with the beginning. We jump right into it with Benji running while being chased, after just witnessing his father be murdered. The world around him is dark and violent, filled with blood and bodies. It was almost julting to me to enter into this world. It was hard. Now, I also know have the ability to look back and see the beauty of the technique and how powerful that jolt of emersion contributed to our feelings of emergency, fear and almost being lost in a maze of death. It was just hard for me to adjust at first.
Favorite quote: "In a place like the the ALC, after Judgement Day, it's easy to forget you're trans. Or maybe a better way to word it would be , it gets easier for me to forget the pain of being trans. Being transgender is who you are, and the pain is what the outside does to you. The pain is what happens when you and the world go for each other's throats. In the ALC, I almost forget that being trans can hurt." (pg.126 of the ARC book which may not be the same as in the published work).
I loved the diversity of the characters, but even more then that, I loved that their characteristics didn't define them. Benji's gender identity was just a piece of the puzzle, a part of who he was and a piece that hadn't been accepted by most in the environment he lived. I loved that Nick's Autism wasn't Nick, but pieces of him that mattered but wasn't ever bearing. I loved the reality of that. The act that the story is about Benji who just happens to be trans, and his friends who just happen to not be straight, all the same color, gender, size, religion, economical class, ect. and yet none of that sits at the forefront of who they (and I've seen those things be the biggest thing about the characters before).
I also appreciated the journey. When I first started, I wasn't sure how much I was going to like the book because it seemed so blood, guts and toxically religious (this is not to say that religion is toxic, but that the Angels were extremists and their methods were toxic). But by the time I read the last page, I didn't feel like I read a violent story with a diverse cast in a dystopian world that needed saving. Instead, I felt like I read a heartfelt and powerful story that took place in a dystopian world with a diverse set of characters that also included violence and some gore. But, also, those violent scenes and the gore were needed in order to truly feel the impact of the story.
I do kind of wish that we had had a chance to see more of Benji's life within the cult and got to meet his dad before the escape attempt. I understand that that would have been a lot and the book would have been like 500 pages or something, but I couldn't help wondering what life in that extreme environment was and feeling like some of that may have helped us understand the struggles Benji was going through, or at least some of them. I'd also really like to know more about his parent's relationship. It almost doesn't seem to make sense when we listen to Benji remember about his father and his life with the Angels. His parents seem to be so opposite, I'm not sure how they could have been together. I can speculate some, but it still just seems odd.
I don't know that I will read this book again but I'm really glad I got to read it. I truly enjoyed it. It's become one of my favorites to recommend to people looking for Dystopian books. It's not for everyone, but for those it's for, it's a must read.
I give this book a