Thank you so much, NetGalley, Peachtree and Peachtreeteen, for the chance to read this book in exchange of an honest review.
TW: violence, abuse, murder, body horror, transphobia, religious abuse, abusive parents and partner, victim self-blaming, self-injury
Check the author’s website for the complete TWs https://andrewjosephwhite.com/content-warnings%3A-hfwu
Benji is a sixteen year old trans boy, on the run from the cult that raised him, a religious extremist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population and infected him with a bioweapon. Desperate to find a place where they can’t find, hurt and use him. Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, known as the ALC. Its leader is Nick, gorgeous and autistic and he knows Benji’s darkest’s secret, that the bioweapon is turning him into a deadly monster. Rescued and sheltered, Benji decides to learn how to control the monster and use its power to defend his new family. Even if that means confronting the cult’s hate and power and escaping from it alive and free.
Hell followed with us is a magnificent and furious queer debut, about embracing your monster and fighting back against your oppressors, to be alive and free. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world, with destroyed cities, dead and/or mutated bodies, where the survivors are fighting to live, eat and be safe from the monsters, humans or not. Benji was raised by a fundamentalist cult, struggling with their hate and ideas, trying to get free and to live as a boy, when everyone in the cult wants him to be their savior girl, battling transphobia, deadnaming and violence from abusive parent and partner. When he’s rescued by the ALC, a ragtag group of queer teens, with different ideas, but who built a safe place for them, Benji starts to see another world, a chance to be himself and to find his own home, place and love.
The ALC is strongly opposed to the cult’s ideas and violence and there Benji starts to make friends, to find a new family and a place to survive and he will be willing to do anything to keep them all safe, even getting back to the lion’s den and destroy it from within. The worldbuilding created by the author is eerie and scary, filled with violence and surviving, monsters and mutations, virus and religious fanatism and religion used and abused to justify genocide and bigotry. the writing style, the prose is so vivid I could imagine everything so clearly and I absolutely loved how immersive and evocative the story was.
Benjii is a great main character, struggling with victim self-blaming, religious brainwashing and wanting to be free and himself. He’s stubborn, brilliant and filled with justified anger and the desire to destroy those who hurt and still threaten him. I loved his relationship with Nick and how they slowly start to understand, respect, protect and love one other in a very messy and violent situation. I’ve also loved the disability rep and how wonderfully written was Nick’s character. The extremism, the constant use of religion to justify hate and violence is strongly opposed by the ALC and by these wonderful queer kids, fighting back and resisting a world bent on destroying them, by loving and taking care of one other. The horror, grief, rage and hate are mixed with hope, found family and love in this awesome dystopian story.
The author wrote a book full of gore, fire and justified anger, about monsters who decide to fight back for themselves and their loved ones. A story about embracing yourself and the monster within and fighting against your oppressors, finding your own home and family.
Hell followed with us represent a cruel world and the amazing queer teens who fight to survive.