Laura Gallier's debut novel is a Young Adult supernatural suspense titled The Delusion which takes Owen Edmonds, a senior in high school, to the brink of insanity after ingesting a sample of some underground water in a valiant effort to protect a girlfriend from consuming it without knowing its contents.
Owen Edmonds attends a high school in Cypress, Texas, where fellow students are taking their own lives in a rash of suicides. Pious picketers outside the school insist there's real evil going on inside the school as if their demonstrations can accomplish a solution to the multiple deaths of these young people. When the story opens, Owen is dating an attractive girl named Jess whose major focus is set upon herself and prom night. One afternoon when they venture into a familiar spot in the woods, Jess hears the underground roar of rushing water. When Owen digs down to find it, Jess insists she wants to see it, and after getting some in a container she tells Owen she's going to drink it. When he objects, she goads him about his lack of spontaneity and adventure, but he insists it could be dangerous. In order to protect her from consuming it, he drinks it.
Immediately his stomach aches, his head pulses, and the pains are so intense, he quickly takes them both home. The sensations Owen experiences make him wonder if he's going to survive his foolish venture. His stomach feels like he swallowed dry ice and the freezing feeling in his gut won't dissipate although the migraine pain finally ebbs. What he learns is this is just the preliminary experience to the shocking supernatural visions he now sees of the people around him. Most all of the students and his alcoholic mom wear shackles, chains, and cords in various numbers protruding from their bodies. Words and names appear on cuffs of the frost-feeling chains when he can sneak a look at them, and later putrid smelling wicked looking figures Owen calls "Creepers" follow people around influencing their actions and emotions. He is terrified of being insane, schizoid, and all things crazy since he knows no one else sees the hideous images he's experiencing.
Some minor relief infiltrates his life when he notices there are a few students who actually have a golden glow accompanying them, shining around their feet. No chains or heinous images. He gets the nerve to approach one of the girls who "glows", wanting to know if there's a way to find out the secret to that freedom. Desperately hoping for an answer to his "condition", he wonders if he can tell her what's happened to him.
Since I don't read a lot of YA fiction, I can only review this novel from my perspective as an adult. I see real value in The Delusion because Owen epitomizes the typical young man who really hasn't given a lot of serious thought to his existence. He's been raised by a single alcoholic mom who's told him his dad didn't want anything to do with them. Somehow she's been able to provide a decent life for Owen, but his focus is typically narrow and unspiritual. He has a chip on his shoulder and a brazen resentment of anything "religious" while refusing to admit what he's being exposed to by these water-induced visions is supernatural revelation.
The use of biblical symbolism will not be lost on Christian youth but will no doubt go right over the heads of unbelievers. This is perfectly acceptable because this story capitalizes on both positions from the lost and found perspectives, giving Owen a certain credence in his total lack of faith while documenting his journey toward change with his only ally, a Christian girl who initially seems to struggle slightly with her own ability to verbalize her beliefs but who gains strength in her convictions as the story progresses. As the final scenes take place, much of the important symbolism becomes clear.
There are some harrowing and tragic events which occur throughout the story after most of Owen's friends disown him, a good twist in Owen's family life, and a climactic conclusion at a graduation night party which brings about true resolution in Owen's life.
The construction of the novel only held one weakness for me. The story begins with the emphasis on the tragic suicides at Owen's high school. The abrupt shift to his "delusions" after consuming the water takes the story down a different road and left me waiting for the reconnect to the suicides. Of course the reader soon realizes the reasons for the suicides but the suicides themselves aren't the primary focus of the story. This created a slight misfire for me.
Technically speaking, I would've preferred the internal dialogue be put in italics, although I know some authors/editors have a distaste for them. At times it was difficult to tell what was being said or merely thought. Minor, but it's a preference for me. Also I believe the repeated use of "chunking" was supposed to be "chucking" and it stopped me from reading every time it was used.
The Delusion tackles some genuine hard topics, including the surface portrayal of spiritual warfare, for young adults and exposes them from both perspectives. I appreciate the way Owen's journey takes him from a typical self-absorbed young man to a guy who finally sees himself for who he is after exhausting all the excuses available to humanity. It's an honest depiction of a kid who finds that relying on himself to solve his and others' problems only leaves him with more unsolvable problems. One incident in particular demonstrates his lack of sensitivity when his former girlfriend Jess hints at what her dad did, but it blows right by Owen without acknowledgment. There's a large collection of teenage angst and drama, but it all works in The Delusion.
The back cover copy is enticing and well-written, and I think Laura Gallier's debut novel will have the YA audience asking for more from this author.
Father, it's clear how deeply Laura's heart is focused on you, and I pray you would continue to bless her efforts to bring you glory and to honor you in all she does. Keep her safe and watch over her. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.