Evil Librarian - Michelle Knudsen

This book is just plain fun! There is so much to enjoy, and even though the plot sometimes gets a bit out of control, in my humble opinion, Knudsen's novel is delightfully campy in just the right ways.

    "John Gabriel, the new librarian," Mr. Gabriel says brightly. "Pleased to meet you!"

    "But you're—you're not—" Ryan stops, swallows, starts again. "You're not human," he says....

    Mr. Gabriel's terrifying grin grows even larger, stretching impossibly across his face. He begins to laugh. Then he stops laughing and winks at us.

    "Strangely, the job description did not specify that as a requirement."

Cynthia and Annie are very good friends. Or at least, they used to be, until the new librarian arrives at school and seduces Annie, practically turning her into a zombie in the course of a few short days. Cynthia isn't surprised at first, but when she finally meets Mr. Gabriel in person, she starts to suspect there's something just a bit... off, about him. When other students and teachers begin to zone out and turn into zombies all around her, she finally gets to the bottom of things, soon discovering something she seriously wishes she hadn't. Mr. Gabriel is a demon, and that's not an exaggeration. Cynthia is now stuck in between making sure the school production of Sweeney Todd goes off without a hitch, since she's the stage manager, and trying to rescue Annie from the clutches of the evil librarian. Of course there's also a love interest for Cynthia, and there are other complications just to keep things interesting, because, you know, a demon librarian just isn't enough to keep everyone occupied.
[Mr. Gabriel laughs,] "Teenagers are the worst! You think you're in love with this one here, but you don't even know him. You can't see who he is, can't read his soul, can't feel what's inside him. You think he looks hot in his gym shorts, and that must mean you love him. That's not love you're feeling in your loins there, my dear."
First of all, I love the concept, and while I didn't really know what to expect, I found myself quite enthralled from the very beginning. Though I don't always appreciate cliche, Knudsen creates an enjoyable parody, working through cliches and common jokes about librarians to give readers a solid dose of humor and camp. Cynthia makes observations about librarians that many of my colleagues will find funny, even if some find the humor to be somewhat "insider": "[M]aybe it's, like, the American Library Association's master plan [to stock] high schools across the country with hot young librarians as part of a massive literacy initiative." Tehehe!

One thing I love in this book is that Ryan, though a stereotypically good looking jock type, is the sexy object of desire for the female narrator, somewhat subverting the common theme of the sexy female love object. Cynthia wants Ryan, and though she would like him to love her, she is still a teenager, and a very emotional and sexual one at that. The horny male teen protagonist is common, but the same from a female character is not that common. I love that Knudsen wrote such a sexual female protagonist! Maybe that sounds creepy, but it's something that's definitely been avoided and I'm glad to see it:
And now I have to forcibly prevent my eyes from darting to his general pelvic region and trying to see through his jeans to whatever tantalizing color boxer briefs he might be wearing today.
And...
One edge of a dark-blue sheet barely brushes the back of my neck as I settle into place. I allow my brain exactly two seconds of thinking about what parts of Ryan that edge of sheet might have come into contact with while he was last wrapped up in it. Then I force myself to focus on what we're supposed to be doing. 
As I noted before, the book works off of moments of cliche related to horror films and thrillers. One such fabulous moment comes when Ryan and Cyn are in the library trying to dispose of Mr. Gabriel:
Ryan finds a light switch, and of course only a fraction of the lights are working, and at least one is flickering annoyingly, but the familiar fluorescent glow of substandard school lighting makes me feel a little better.
I also love the concentration on Sweeney Todd as the school production, and the fact that, as noted a few times in the book, it's the play demons like the most! ("All demons love Sweeney Todd, you know.") I've always been partial to books that explore the ins and outs of theatre life, especially within the realm of school. And while, at least to me, it seems unrealistic to put on such a play in a high school setting, I love where Knudsen goes with the production and how it works into the overall plot.

But on that note, I'm starting to ramble, I think, so I'll finish this up: Evil Librarian plays off of a number of cliches, a lot of stereotypes about librarians and substitute teachers, and even makes some fabulous jokes about the American Library Association that many of my colleagues will surely appreciate (see above). I definitely recommend this book to fans of camp, horror, and the truly bizarre. This book will keep you entertained until the final moments of demon battle, complete with magical protractor and textbook.

Well done, Michelle!!

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