The Little Exorcist: Alys Daddi
Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan
Before I jump into this review, I want to comment on the intended readership for this book. The Little Exorcist is aimed at readers aged nine and up by the author, classifying it as a Middle-Grade novel. I don’t have children and have not read many MG books, so I’m certainly no authority on this novel’s suitability, however, there is some mild cursing and scenes concerning mental illness which I feel warrants a pre-screening by an adult prior to giving this book to a child. No doubt some children at this age have already been exposed to more explicit content, but the emotional intensity of the story gives me pause to recommend this to pre-teen readers. All that aside, as an adult I really enjoyed this book and think it will appeal to fans of psychological and paranormal horror aged thirteen and up.
The book begins with Molly, on the cusp of turning nine years old, waiting for her parents to leave the house so she can hang out with her cool babysitter, Charlotte. Molly is a typical girl her age, stuck in that horrible phase between childhood and adulthood. She’s interested in make-up, a bit curious about Charlotte’s love life, and is starting to feel embarrassed by her parents, especially her dad, a horror writer and heavy metal fan who dresses the part. But she’s also still drawn to kids’ movies, My Little Pony, and thinks fart jokes are funny.
Molly’s life takes a serious turn when her dad, Wayne, begins acting stranger than normal. When Wayne and Fran (Molly’s mom) get home from a party, they’re fighting over an incident they refuse to discuss with Molly. Of course, that only makes Molly even more determined to find out what happened. Eventually, she finds a video of her dad playing with an Ouija Board at the party, and this is where Wayne’s alter personality, Kelly, makes her first appearance.
Kelly is a six-year-old girl, who likes singing songs, playing games, and is starving for attention. In an instant, Wayne becomes Kelly, acts like a child, and then wakes up with no memory of what he’s done. As Wayne starts having frequent episodes where he becomes Kelly, all the adults are convinced Wayne is suffering from mental illness. They suggest he’s developed Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously termed Multiple Personality Disorder), or perhaps he’s afflicted by Schizophrenia, like his father had been. After Wayne has a run-in with the police, he sets up a doctor’s appointment and is soon referred to a mental health specialist. His despair seeps off the page as the last thing Wayne ever wanted was to be institutionalized like his father. And seeing her father in distress heightens Molly’s anxiety as well.
Unlike the adults, Molly has an easier time relating to Kelly, probably because they’re close in age, but all she wants is for her dad to be normal. And, unlike the adults, Molly isn’t so easily convinced that her dad’s changes are completely related to mental health. Kelly seems to have her own memories and feels so different from Wayne that Molly believes something paranormal could be going on. After a horrifying altercation that sees Wayne taken to a psychiatric facility, Molly is further convinced and sets off to uncover the truth.
Author Alys Daddi does a phenomenal job of creating rich, vivid characters. Wayne, Fran, Charlotte, and Charlotte’s parents feel like multifaceted, real people with complex relationships and emotions. But Molly is the superstar. It’s not easy expressing the emotions of a child going through a confusing and traumatic experience, but Daddi executes this to perfection.
In moments where Kelly appears, Molly knows to treat her like a child, almost becoming a parent to the personality living inside her dad’s body. Molly carries a burden too large for a child, but, true to life, that often happens when a parent becomes seriously ill. When she is alone, we get a sense of the pressure she’s feeling as she becomes depressed and her thoughts turn to death and even suicide. My stomach was constantly in knots as I followed Molly’s journey of having to grow up in an instant.
The Little Exorcist is a great rollercoaster of a novel, with a good balance of emotional strife and intense action, and a fantastic twist ending. I’m looking forward to reading more of Daddi’s work, no matter what age range she targets next.
The Little Exorcist
Molly’s Dad Wayne has always been a practical joker, a proper wind-up merchant, his sense of humour holds no bounds and when, what he thinks is, a trick at his expense backfires he is left feeling unusual. Wayne’s silliness stoops to new and more juvenile levels but strangely he professes to having no recollection of this behaviour.
Things go from silly to strange when these events turn into regular blackouts and Wayne reveals secrets from his past that may have implications on his present day mental health. With his family and friends trying to support him and come to terms with living with someone who may have a Dissociative Identity, or Multiple Personality Disorder it’s only his daughter Molly who wonders if there is more to his illness than the psychiatric team can deal with.
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology (out July 26, 2019), and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan