Demons and Shadows by Robert Westall

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The stories contained in Demons and Shadows possess all the qualities of fantasy/ science fiction as well as realistic fiction. In these writings, set in England a generation ago, the reader experiences the frightening and supernatural through the eyes of realistic characters, including shopkeepers, graveyard superintendents, school teachers, teenagers, and shy ladies, each with their own eccentricities. Westall's narration takes the reader inside the minds of his characters, including the demons and unnamed supernatural creatures. The reader feels a creature's driving hunger to eat away at the memories of its victim as well as the malevolent nature of a corpse who desecrates graves. Readers share the transformation of Maude, a shy young woman, who discovers that when she puts on supernatural spectacles, she gains great insight into others, becomes assertive, and gains the ability to lure men. Other stories realistically reflect the confusion of adolescents as they gain greater understanding of themselves and their place in society.

Westall's stories also raise serious social and moral questions. One young man must choose between sacrificing the life of an old wizard and ridding himself of a burdensome gift. Rachel, a young girl, must maintain her goodness and faith in fellow man to save her village from evil. Young teenage boys must cope with the death of their buddy who is killed in a motorcycle crash as well as their disillusionment in the justice system when the drunk driver responsible for the accident is given a light sentence. However, the real appeal of the stories contained in Demons and Shadows lies in their vivid description and narratives which draw the reader into bizarre, but believable, encounters with the inexplicable and supernatural.