I’m obviously a big fan of queer books, so this was always going to be a book that I was going to read. As well as that, I’ve followed A.J on Twitter for a few years, as part of my foray into writing Twitter. I might not have written for a while, but I’ve still been following him and enjoying doing so. A.J seems like a great guy, so I also knew that I wanted to support him by writing a review.
Hell Followed With Us follows Benji, a trans teen who is on the run from the cult that has destroyed a lot of the world and transformed him into a bioweapon. All he wants to be able to do is just live his life as the boy he is, but after being cornered by monsters when trying to escape, he is rescued by teens from a local LGBTQA+ group. Their leader Nick is gorgeous, autistic and deadly, and he knows exactly who Benji actually is. But he agrees to let Benji stay, provided he can control his inner monster and help them. Benji agrees, but soon he finds out that Nick might not be telling him everything.
If you’re squeamish, this might not be the book for you. I’m not the biggest fan of body horror, but since I expected it in this book, it didn’t bother me very much. There’s a lot of murder and descriptions of blood and plenty of squishy things. This is very much a horror novel, and it would definitely not be fun to see on screen. Not for me anyway. The descriptions are very vivid, and they can be a little off-putting, but that’s what makes them so good.
Benji was a different example of trans rep than we’re used to seeing in media, and it was nice. Benji hasn’t done more than socially transition. He’s cut his hair short and dresses in a masculine fashion, but he doesn’t bind, and he wouldn’t get any chance to take hormones or have surgery. But he’s okay with that. He doesn’t feel dysphoric about his body, just the way others view him. Not all trans people experience dysphoria, and those that do, don’t necessarily experience it in the same way. He doesn’t hate his body, but he knows he’s a guy, and it was so wonderful to see that sort of rep. It’s also worth noting that there’s definitely transphobia within this book. Some people within the group don’t see Benji as trans due to his personal experience. On the other side, the cult still refers to him as a girl and tries to treat him as so. That can be pretty painful, as it seems he’s going to be judged no matter where he goes. Fortunately, Benji makes friends who love him no matter what.
Obviously, this book has a lot of ties to religion. The cult Benji has escaped from claims to be Christian and refers to themselves as angels. They’re doing what to do to please God. If they get rid of all other people on Earth, they’ll surely all go to Heaven. This leads to convoluted thoughts and discussions on faith. Some teenagers do want to believe, but obviously, it’s difficult to deal with. They’re having to accept that they can have faith and be good people and that not be connected to the cult. I found this pretty interesting. I’m not religious myself. Not at all. But I can see both the good and bad that religion can do. This book focuses on a lot of the bad, but there are some interesting discussions on both sides.
I think the world-building was pretty good. This is set in a near-future America, so technology-wise, there’s nothing that different. The world is ending, and people do have very little left. In this sort of novel, you kind of expect to see some changes in technology, but this book was pretty analogue. It helped add to the dying world feel to this book, and it was pretty good. The cult and everything else made so much sense and made for a gripping read.
Overall, this was a pretty good book. I’m so glad that I’ve read it, even if it was grosser than I’d usually like. This is definitely a book worth reading.
Title: Hell Followed With Us
Author: Andrew Joseph White
Age Range: Young Adult
Release Date: 14/6/22