Mary, The Summoning
By Hillary Monohan
Review by Jarad Johnson
When this book was first recommended to me, I thought it would be a good choice. I’ve been in the mood for a good horror novel lately. It’s about Bloody Mary, the urban legend. It can be difficult to have an original take or plot line with such a familiar trope, because nearly everything has been done; however, this was an engaging read for the most part. In some ways I was not disappointed, and in some ways, I was let down. Overall, it’s a fine read, neither really good nor really bad, though there are parts of that fit into both categories. I found that, at times, the writing made what should have been a fast-paced read drag and slow down. Also, I couldn’t quite hook into the story, didn’t find it scary or remotely chilling, which oddly, I believe was the intention. I found it to be slightly affected, and to be honest it read like a bad horror movie. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. There’s some value in a bad horror movies. But it just didn’t live up to my expectations.
The characters read as underdeveloped. I wasn’t able to sympathize with any of them, so when some of them died I wasn’t able to be upset. They read as one-dimensional side characters, if I’m perfectly honest, which translated to the entire book; it read as a little unfinished. The characters were all quite annoying at times as well, which may have been the authors intention, but I found a little off-putting. Furthermore, there are parts of the book that don’t make sense to me (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD). There is a point, very early on in the book, when one of the main characters friends contacts someone whom Mary has haunted, in order to find out to summon her. The haunted woman, knowing full well what Mary is capable of, tells her the ritual and then warns her against using it. Would it not have been more prudent to just not give away the ritual, instead of trusting them not to use it? I only bring this up because it bothered me for the rest of the book.
I have one very serious issue with the book, and it requires a bit of explaining. I’m a big fan of the TV show Supernatural, and about halfway through the first season, they had a Bloody Mary episode. In the episode, three girls summon Mary, whose name is later revealed to be Mary Worthington; and in the novel, Mary’s name is Mary Worth. Anyone who watches the show will know that the two main characters often use salt as a means to ward off ghosts, and this was also used in the book. Furthermore, the slogan of the show is, “saving people hunting things,” and there is a line in the book that talks about hunting the ghost. While I don’t think this was intentional, there are too many similarities for me to just brush it off. Now, I was able to find a couple of websites that gave the same version of the legend that is in the novel, but the similarities between the episode, while not exact, were similar enough that it reminded of it, and this aired nearly thirteen years ago. The book did not read as original or authentic, which ultimately too away from the story, because I was reminded of Supernatural at every turn. Ultimately, I felt this story had already been done before and better.
Jarad attends Middle Tennessee State University, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad is majoring in English. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!