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The Merciless

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Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

279 pages, Hardcover

First published June 12, 2014

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About the author

Danielle Vega

16 books1,667 followers
Danielle Vega is the author of THE MERCILESS and SURVIVE THE NIGHT. She's also the author of BURNING, under the name Danielle Rollins.

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5 stars
4,076 (25%)
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,995 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
June 26, 2014
The Merciless really is just a crappy version of Mean Girls with a heavy dose of gratuitous violence and sensationalism. I kept seeing the Mean Girls parallels as I was reading - the two really are astonishingly alike, but this book fills up the absence of clever irony with senseless melodrama and angst. Even Kirkus called this "Mean Girls with an occult twist."

The lack of an ironic tone makes the girls bitchy language seem incredibly immature and damn annoying after a while. This book may struggle to find an audience as it reads too young for the targeted mature teens and young adults, but contains too much gruesome imagery of nails being pulled off to be one I could easily recommend for younger kids. The language is very simplistic - not necessarily a bad thing - and I found myself flicking through pages very quickly in the beginning, but it soon became too ludicrous to read without rolling my eyes.

Following the plot of Mean Girls, this book is about a new girl in school called Sofia Flores and how she ends up torn between the rebellious outcast girl (Brooke), and the group of beautiful, popular girls who try to take her under their wing. She ends up hanging around with one to spy on the other, etc, etc. You probably remember the story yourself, even without reading the book. Then there's the whole occult twist angle, as these popular girls are deeply religious and believe Brooke is possessed by a demon.

And that's another thing! I'm not giving away any information that isn't readily offered up by the official blurb... and yet this essentially spoils the entire first half of the novel, rendering the author's attempts at suspense pointless. There is an overwhelming sense of pointlessness about this whole story; it feels created to shock us with blood and ritual sacrifices, instead of containing any actual substance. Such a shame really, because it sounded so good.

Despite the impression we are given by the blurb, I didn't find this scary at all. Laughable is more like it. I did speed through it and found the writing very easy to digest, so I upped my rating a little, but the fact remains that this book is nonsensical, sensational and utterly unbelievable. The scenes that are supposed to be loaded with suspense and fear are just cheesy, and all the girls' reasons for doing what they do are so stupid that I couldn't even consider any one of them serious villains. It's not that I don't believe teen girls can be fucking crazy... but they were shown to have such a shallow pointless mentality.

The ending was easy to predict too. Maybe this is more suited to fans of traditional horror, because I admit that I can see this making a wonderful slasher film that could be shown every Halloween. But if you're looking for a psychological thriller starring teen girls, then I would recommend shifting your sights towards the works of Abigail Haas instead of this.

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January 16, 2022

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Riley turns the knife so its blade catches the candlelight. "I read about this method of exorcism called bleeding," she explains. "If you harm the host body enough, it scares the demon away" (131).

It never occurred to me that Mean Girls meets American Psycho: The Book could be a thing or that it needed to be made, but apparently Danielle Vega thought so - much to my detriment. The first sign that something fishy was afoot is a "warning" in the inside cover of this book that says "For mature audiences only" which I sneered at, because the only other books I've seen with such a disclaimer are yaoi manga and Maya Banks's Sweet series.

"Go to hell, warning!" I thought to myself, blithely turning the page, where I promptly met Sofia, the sniveling new girl who, like the character in Mean Girls, ends up befriending the outcast girl. Sort of. But then, that same day, she also ends up befriending the popular girls, sort of, including Queen Bee. Regina. I mean, Riley.

The difference is that the "Plastics" in this book should be called the "Fanatics." They are all super religious and think that Brooklyn is possessed by a demon and needs to be exorcised.


"Okay," I thought to myself. "That's weird. I hope this is going somewhere."


Well, it was going somewhere. Torture. Graphic descriptions of torture. Graphic descriptions of torture that are really not appropriate for teenagers. I know, I know, there's a warning in the front cover, but I thought it was some sort of weird shtick, like the pentacle and the inverted cross on the cover. I mean, isn't Razorbill Penguin's young adult and middle grade imprint? How graphic could this book possibly be? Well, LET ME JUST TELL YOU SOME OF THE THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THIS BOOK. Someone gets a finger chopped off by a knife, somebody gets crucified, somebody gets flesh literally chewed off, somebody gets burned alive, not to mention the stabbings, attempted drownings, and various other things that happen in here. Things I totally did not sign up for.

Oh, and that ending - that ending made me so mad. Because it turns out Brooklyn was possessed by a demon after all, so the torture was totally justified. The sociopathic squad was doing the right thing. At that point I was wringing my hands and being like, "Am I being too puritanical? Is this actually a good book, despite the graphic content?" I hated AMERICAN PSYCHO after all, and couldn't get around the violence. But when I got to THE ENDING(!), I was like, "Nope, this is a terrible book and I am going to give it the bad review it deserves (but not the bad review it needs right now)."

This was a gross and awful book and actually slightly ruined what was otherwise a good day.

1 star
Profile Image for Kassidy.
339 reviews11k followers
June 11, 2014
This is a crazy, weird, insanely messed up book, but kinda awesome.
I am a big fan of all things scary and the horror genre and I think this book lives up to that title.
The characters weren't great, it was predictable at times, but the plot overall was insane. I think the gruesome/horrific scenes were done very well, they definitely gave me goosebumps and made me look away at times and remind myself that this isn't real.
The girls in this book are completely deranged and delusional, almost unbelievably so. If you can put aside rational thought and let this book suck you into its demented story, then you will be in for a memorable journey.
I would NOT recommend this to people who get scared easily. However, it is definitely YOUNG ADULT horror. I think people who like scary stuff will enjoy this book for its entertainment, drama, and crazy plot. If you are looking for a YA book that will send shivers down your spine and make you literally say "wtf..", then this one is for you! It also deals with exorcisms and spiritual stuff, so if you aren't comfortable with that, then I wouldn't recommend this.
I believe this is going to be a series, which I am on the fence about. I think it would be cool if this was a stand alone, but I am interested to read the sequels!
Profile Image for ELLIAS (elliasreads).
477 reviews38.2k followers
April 11, 2017
The freaking HELL was this???!!

Just. WOW .

What. The. SHIT. This is probably one of the dumbest books I have ever read. Are you kidding me right now? I'm so flabbergasted how this book even ended...

It had such an incredible and awesome premise...
But the book itself??



Hella stupid.

The main character - fucking stupid AF.
Like, literally how is she so clueless and -

Fuck this. I can't go on. Not worth. Bye bitch


....not even a full star. Not one. Nope.
Profile Image for Sheyenne.
172 reviews
April 29, 2014

O MY GOSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This story is fuckin amazing! I really didn't think I would like this book because I thought it would be to creepy for me. But it's super creepy and I loved it!

I don't know what else to say without giving anything away so since this is an early copy the only thing I'm going to say is that it's AMAZING!!!!!!!!


Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,662 reviews5,142 followers
September 4, 2017
Sofia just wants to fit in, like any new girl would. High school is a big, scary world - especially when you're a military brat, moving every six months. When she makes new friends with the popular girls, she's over the moon. When they ask her to spy on the weird kid, Brooklyn, she's wary. When they ask her to help them perform an exorcism on Brooklyn, Sofia begins to realize that something is very wrong here.

After all, everyone has their own sins to confess.

Mean Girls meets The Exorcist?

I wanted to love this book. The book itself was unique: a hardback without a dust jacket, that looked more like a Bible than a YA book, though the gaudy matte pink ruined the effect a bit. YA horror isn't something I find good examples of frequently, though, so when I saw this on sale on BookOutlet, I naturally had to grab it!

This book was so. damn. annoying. The narrator felt very shallow as a character; she knew what was happening was wrong, but kept going along with it because she wanted to be "accepted", blah blah blah, typical teenager bullshit. None of the characters ever received any real fleshing out; to be frank, there was probably more backstory around the narrator's stroke-affected grandmother than anyone else.

I figured out the ending somewhere around the 30% mark, which always puts a damper on things, but I try not to let that bias my review. The violence throughout the second half varied between really cringe-y in a good way, to cringe-y in a bad way, and by the end of it, I just felt like I'd wasted a couple of hours of my life. I won't be picking up the sequel and would not recommend this title.
Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,365 followers
June 20, 2014

This was my reaction to much of this novel's… happenings. It's a horror through and through, and definitely not for the wussies or faint of hearts. After a quick introduction to our protagonist and the setting, we're thrust into a house-of-torture kind of read where these girls have it in their head that one is a demon that must be exorcised.

"Most girls would just start a burn book."

But not these girls! These girls opt for pulling hairs out of scalps and taking fingernails out. Yeah.. Excuse me while I go barf!

The book itself is more for the horror and shock value than substance. Character development is not especially strong, for instance. And I found myself frustrated by the number of times the protagonist "almost" got the upper hand in this story - 20 pages spent on her plan to get the girls drugged so she can escape, just to fail in 10 seconds, and so on. But it does offer a pretty decent horror story, nonetheless. And like I said, it's also not for the faint of heart, let me tell you right now. You'll be reading detailed accounts of torture including someone's nail getting ripped out without anything left out of its description. I even had to skip a few pages during a part that involved cockroaches and a dead body. No details spared there either! No, thanks!!

Where there's a lack in character development, there's also lacks emotion and depth. While I was horrified by what these girls were doing, I was not crying over any death that occurred in this story. I was just mostly grossed out and traumatized by the lengths they were going to remove this supposed "evil" from this girl. Though, even with the extremes, it's not exactly unbelievable, especially in light of stories in the news at the moment about girls stabbing each other to prove something to a fictional character created by the internet. This made it all the more shocking to read, to be honest.

Throughout the book, we get flashbacks from our protagonist that quickly tells us she has dark secrets of her own. We also learn a bit of the other girls' secrets as well, but the main characters' story ends up being the one with the most meaning. It lent purpose to the story's twist. Personally, I actually really liked the ending, but I can also see it being a hit or miss for most. I found it to be a good and unique angle the author decided to adopt.

Overall, is pretty much the whole of the book: A one-night stay in a torture-filled house with no escape and a bunch of psychopathic teenagers. There's not much more I can say about it, really. It's plain and simply a cheap-thrill kind of read that I would recommend to true horror fans.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for review.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
593 reviews3,542 followers
October 11, 2016
3.5 stars

"Hang out with Brooklyn, I mean. I don't think she's seen you with us yet. You can find out why she's such a bitch now."

"You want me to spy on her?" I ask.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Mean Girls! Now with an extra dash of exorcism!

"We exorcise you, impure one, you satanic power." Her clear voice fills the cold corners of the basement.

Next to Dorothy Must Die, The Merciless was one of my most anticipated reads for 2014. I'd added it long before it had a cover because the blurb promised me a teenage version of Carrie's mom. How can anyone not be into that?

Unfortunately, as I was reading, it became evidently clear that the author had bitten off more than she could chew. She had a fantastic concept of a bunch of religious psychos torturing a girl, whom they believe is a demon, but decided to screw it and go in the far easier (and cheaper) direction of supernatural horror.

There's nothing wrong with supernatural horror, of course. The Shining features a haunted house after all. But it is the corrosion of Jack's humanity, his turning onto his wife, his beloved son and hunting them down with a rouque mallet (off with their heads!) that truly turns the cheap Halloween prop into a afriad-to-go-to-the-bathroom-at-night frightfest. People are the true monsters, and Vega tossed that away for a cheap "Boo!" She does incorporate bits and pieces of humanity's dark side by having the religious girls confess their sins, but it feels like an afterthought and turns into a freaking catfight midway.

I am dead serious. That gif above is one of the sins they confess. The first half of the book equals the first half of Mean Girls. Sofia is the new girl in school and meets Janis Brooklyn and Damien Charlie. The Plastics, Riley, Alexis, and Grace adopt her into their group, but instead of wearing pink, they pray. Riley, aka Regina, was even friends with Brooklyn in middle school.

"We all used to be friends, you know," Riley says. "Brooklyn too."

Riley asks Sofia to hang out with Brooklyn, and one thing led to another, and the next thing you know, Brooklyn is trussed up in a basement and getting her nail sliced off.

That part I did enjoy. Some people said that it catered to the gore factor instead of horror and while I agree (psychological horror trumps clowns), it didn't bug me. I've had very low expectations for YA horror since Anna Dressed in Blood, which should be labelled YA Paranormal instead of Horror. Reading about people tearing their own hair out and stabbing themselves in the leg with a pen effectively made me cringe and put me right off the barbequed pork I was eating that night. Not bad for YA horror.

Character development is lacking though. With such a simple premise, you really need to rely on the characters to tide the readers through. While Sofia and the girls weren't cardboard cutoffs, they felt underdeveloped alongside plot points that could've upped the scare factor. Stephen King suffers from overwriting and Vega suffers from underwriting. So many things could have been built on more, like Sofia's grandma's religious tendencies, Alexis's codependent friendship with Riley, or Sofia's mom being an atheist.

Despite all those irks, I was going to give The Merciless 4 stars. Until the cheesy horror-movie ending.

Final verdict: if you like a side of Gossip Girl with your blood, guts, and gore, give this a try. if you want true YA Horror, go to my man Christopher Pike. That guy does not screw around.

Profile Image for Monica.
Author 4 books268 followers
January 2, 2020
Primer libro del año y con esta calificación.
El tema del libro es por completo mi estilo predilecto de lecturas, la autora apuesta por lo diferente y nos trae una historia plagada de elementos que, aunque al principio no parecen tan relevantes, en conjunto te sorprenden por completo.
Todo, de verdad todo de él es super interesante. Desde la frase a modo de sinopsis, como la sinopsis como tal, sorprendente, con ese toque de bien y mal que al menos a mi me mata.
Desde el primer capítulo te atrapa, tiene tales conjunciones, que aunque suene que repito la frase, enserio te deja enganchado al instante.
La trama tiene un ritmo muy sólido, y los personajes aunque se van presentando a su debido tiempo, tienen ese toque aterrador que poco a poco te va envolviendo, otra cosa que le aplaudo a la historia.
Logra que te asusten cosas que quizá has leído en muchos otros libros, pero que aquí, tienen esa dislocación (sí, frase usada por Stephen King que me parece, encaja a la perfección con la idea que trato de transmitirles)
Una historia brutal, repleta de toques mexicanos, que mezcla tintes y elementos religiosos, satánicos, en la balanza que logra capturarte, mientras la sangre, la tortura y los pecados te provocan escalofríos reales que te dejan sin palabras.
Hace años que una historia no lograba darme miedo.
Si te gusta la literatura gótica con un poco de ironía y humor ácido, esta historia es para ti.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,758 reviews757 followers
May 10, 2020
I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this story and man, was I ever pleasantly surprised! I was instantly hooked from page one and literally couldn’t put the book down once I started. It sank its teeth into me and wouldn’t let go. I was on the edge of my seat the whole way through and there were quite a few twists that I was NOT expecting, especially the ending. This story was downright gory and disturbing and I adored every second of it! I found myself shuddering with disgust and having to look away from the page more than a few times, which is always the mark of a good story for me. MTV.com dubbed it as Mean Girls meets The Exorcist and that really is the perfect description for this book!
Profile Image for Cyna.
219 reviews261 followers
September 14, 2016

I went into The Merciless with no knowledge about its contents other than the vaguely-remembered buzzline of “Mean Girls meets The Exorcist“, and I feel like that particular comparison implies something COMPLETELY different to me than it does to the person who wrote it. To me, “like Mean Girls” implies that there will be some meaningful insight into the adversarial relationships between teenage girls. That there will be some subversive content, some lesson learned, because that is literally the E N T I R E P O I N T of Mean Girls. THE ENTIRE POINT.

Consequently, I was expecting some kind of horror movie Mean Girls, something Heathers-esque, some Jennifer’s Body shit. I don’t think that’s completely unreasonable, and in fact, I kind of feel like the first half of the book reinforced it.

Obviously I have no way of knowing if the impression I got was intentional or if it was just me seeing what I expected to see, but the first ~fifty pages of this book struck me as intensely self-aware, as though everything – the characters, setting, conflicts – were extremely stereotypical on purpose. Presumably because the book wanted to make sure you recognized these (awful) tropes before it deconstructed and/or subverted them. It seemed so self-aware that for a really long time, I was convinced that something clever and unexpected had to be waiting in the wings, because this book couldn’t possibly be as shallow and trite as it seemed.


I’ve run this thing through my mind backwards, forwards, and upside down, and if there is any kind of insightful commentary or allegory in there for female friendships and/or mean girls and/or bullying and shit, I’m not seeing it. Even the bare minimum morality play that you’d expect from this sort of premise – bullying is bad, stand up to peer pressure, rah rah – is completely undone by the ending, so I guess you could say that there’s a subversion of the expectation that this book should have bare-minimum morals?

At any rate, without the presence of any meaningful deconstruction, what we’re left with is the story of three stereotypical high-school alpha bitches torturing a stereotypical high-school “bad girl”, while the most FRUSTRATINGLY PASSIVE HEROINE EVER waffles on whether or not to interfere, with some (ineffective) gore and horror movie jump scares thrown in for good measure.

So basically, a novel centered around a trope that I hate, played completely straight, taken to an infuriating extreme, for no meaningful reason and no appreciable payoff. LOL! Girls are awful sociopathic monsters that all secretly hate one another, and cut each other into ribbons over boys! Here, let me describe a fingernail being sliced off, isn’t that so scary?

There is a twist, because of course there is, but given that there were only maybe three possible SHOCKING REVERSE-PSYCH! options, it is not, in fact, all that twisty. Turns out the girl that they’re torturing for being a demon is actually a demon! Surprise!

The only thing the twist does is undermine any weight the novel might have had with some fucking ambiguity, and retroactively justify the cruel antics of the, again, literally torturous Alpha Bitches. The book attempts to recast the girls as victims for the last ten pages or so, as Brooklyn exacts her (kind of warranted) revenge, but it’s an utterly ridiculous ask, because who could possibly care about what happens to these girls after they spent an entire night LITERALLY TORTURING SOMEONE?

Honestly, even post-twist, I’m still inclined to sympathize more with Actual Demon Brooklyn than any of her tormentors. Sure, she was legit a demon, but she didn’t actually do anything to any of the girls except for sleep with one of their (ex)boyfriends, and Not-A-Demon-Just-Evil Riley didn’t even wait for her to do that before she started plotting the extended torture session.

I honestly don’t know why I’m supposed to have enjoyed this book at all. It goes out of its way to make its characters caricatures of human beings, piling on their cruelty, their pettiness, their selfishness, their genuine murderousness, without doing a lick to humanize them in the opposite direction. It’s obviously meant to make them seem like monsters – which it does – but it also makes the story dumber, more cartoonish and less emotionally affecting on any level other than rage.

We’re probably supposed to be invested in our heroine, Sofia, but by the time we got to the exorcism, I wanted to punch her in the face, too. I get wanting to have friends and fit in, but Sofia is dense and ineffectual in a way that I have no patience for. I mean, Riley begins their relationship by nearly drowning her in a bathroom sink, and then literally BREAKS INTO HER HOUSE AT NIGHT WHILE SHE’S SLEEPING to drag her out for a nighttime excursion. I repeat, she BREAKS INTO HER HOUSE. And Sofia is RELIEVED and GOES WITH HER.


That is so absurdly far over the line for acceptable new-friend behavior that I genuinely don’t understand how the book could continue after it. THAT IS SO FUCKING CREEPY. Who does that? More than that, who wouldn’t IMMEDIATELY kick her out and then possibly call the cops? HOW MANY MORE WARNING SIGNS DO YOU NEED, SOFIA?

Sofia’s characterization doesn’t get any better once the exorcism actually gets underway. She and Grace – the only other character to be portrayed as something akin to an empathetic human being – are successfully kept in check by two skinny-ass teenage girls, despite the fact that I’m sure one well-timed punch or tackle could have ended Riley’s reign of terror before it began.

There’s no real rhyme or reason for why Grace or Sofia go along with this, despite generally being portrayed as decent people (up until the end, which we’ll get to). Grace gets a throwaway line in the beginning about how Riley ended a campaign of racist bullying against her when she first moved to town, and how she’d “do anything for her”, but assisting in the kidnapping and torture of a human being? Really?

The thing is, I feel like there’s a completely obvious explanation for why Sofia and Grace would be hesitant to go against Riley that the book never acknowledges: they are two young women of color relatively new to a small Mississippi town that is canonically racist as shit. Seriously, even aside from the racist bullying, it’s described as having “row after row of perfect suburban houses with Mississippi flags hanging from their porches.”

Yeah, fuuuuuck that. A Mexican girl and a black girl having to live in a town with a version of the Confederate flag lining every street? I’d be terrified. I could easily imagine Grace and Sofia being weary of going against Riley and Alexis, two pretty, wealthy white girls from influential families, because they know that they could easily cry their white girl tears and point the finger at the them, quite possibly the only two brown girls in this unapologetically white-supremacist town.

It’d be so much easier to understand their hesitation if this angle were in any way acknowledged. The foundation is there for it, and I find that whole Mississippi flag scene – along with the discussion that follows, about how Grace and Sofia feel so much safer in the land of stars and bars than in either of the cities they came from – too fucking oblivious to be anything but intentional. Yet the book never explicitly addresses it. Grace has her line about doing anything for Riley and then largely fades into the background for the rest of the book, and Sofia’s endless rationalizations never touch on any social power imbalance between them. Like the intense homoeroticism, it’s another weird angle that goes nowhere.

Oh shit, did I not mention the intense homoeroticism? Because that’s a fucking Thing. Riley and Brooklyn are really, REALLY touchy-feely with Sofia. They get up in her space constantly, and there are long, drawn-out moments of close-enough-to-kiss tension that I thought were intentional. I thought maybe there had been some angsty affair between Brooklyn and Riley, and that Riley’s violence was an expression of her religiously-driven internalized homophobia. I mean, I didn’t want that, necessarily, but at least it would have been SOMETHING to give this book context, to make Riley’s actions make some kind of sense.

But it doesn’t matter, because like most of the shit in this book that seems like it’s going to be significant, it’s not.

Anyway, Sofia. Even if you could get past her acting like the girl that you yell at for running up the stairs in a horror movie enough to care about her, you’d just be falling into the book’s cheap trap, because she also turns out to have been a murderous demon all along. Not in any kind of fun, stabbin’-and-fuckin’ way, mind you, but in a boring, agency-less sort of way, where she just alludes to some traumatic event from her past a lot, and then has a surprise last-page reveal. She’s a demon-possessed murderer! But only sometimes and she feels bad about it, maybe? We have no way of knowing, because the book just drops that “bomb” and then ends. Fuck you, reader!

So much bullshit, and that’s not even touching on how this book associates skuzzy and evil with poverty, piercings and tattoos, or how Alexis’ legitimate impulse-control disorder (trichotillomania; she plucks out strands of her hair) is used as an indicator of her twisted fragility, or how difficult the action is to follow, how glitchy the continuity is between scenes, or even how SO MUCH MURDEROUS DRAMA in this book is triggered by girls fighting over a goddamn BOY.

Christ, this book is a clusterfuck of awful. And yes, I get that ~it’s a horror book~, and that it doesn’t have to have grand social commentary or moral message to be good, but a) if you’re gonna center your story around girlhate, then yeah, I kind of need you to do something with that, and b) it DOES at least need to be scary, and The Merciless is not. It’s more violent than I expected it to be, but the violence isn’t scary, just infuriating in this context. It goes for a few tried-and-true movie creeps, but without atmosphere they’re meaningless, file under “You can’t just describe a scene from a horror film and expect it to be scary in a book”.

So yeah, fuck this noise. There was nothing redeeming about The Merciless for me except its brevity.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,138 followers
February 18, 2016
NOPE. 2.5 Stars

OK OK....I love a good horror story, but this tale of evil- doing was clearly just too young-adult (for me) for the most part.

It all begins when a restricted group of young teen girls get together for a little fun in a secluded, unoccupied house for drinking & gossiping about boys and confessing their deepest darkest secrets that ultimately end with revengeful acts of mutilation and torture, (no spoiler here) all in the name of forgiveness and absolution from above. (be prepared for some ewwwwww moments)

And...... although I found the rituals and cat fights a bit silly and unconvincing, I kept reading and discovered a surprisingly good, but short side story with a (somewhat predictable) dark twisty reveal at the end that the horror reader in me enjoyed.

2.5 Stars with a round up to 3 as I don't believe I was the intended targeted audience for this one.

Profile Image for Bentley ★ Bookbastion.net.
242 reviews553 followers
May 8, 2018
See this review and more like it on www.bookbastion.net!

While fantasy is my favorite book genre, horror is one of my favorite movie genres, and I was just realizing the other day that I don't read enough of it. You name a horror movie, I've probably seen it twice, but for some reason I don't gravitate towards scary books as much as I probably should. So, when over the weekend I came across The Merciless by Danielle Vega, I was immediately drawn in by the understated cover design and the promise of dark, twisted horror that is at its heart, absolutely without mercy.

Clocking in at 279 pages, I blew through this baby in an afternoon. While it's not the most original horror ever, and there were a few stumbling blocks - particularly at the beginning and very end - the middle section of the story was is a wild ride that was difficult to put down. Buyer be warned though, this is horror that I think is best suited for fans of the genre. To be quite frank about it, a layperson who doesn't particularly enjoy scares or being grossed out by gore should probably find another book to read as this book has both in spades.

While I think that Vega nails the horrific aspects of this book, it's the other stuff that I've come to look for in the novels I read that I found lacking - particularly complex characters with true blue development from page one until the end. 279 pages was just not enough space to properly introduce and develop the cast of cannon fodder characters in this novel.

Aside from Sofia and to a lesser extent, Brooklyn, we know absolutely nothing about any of the characters. What are their home lives like? What do other students in the school think of them? Why does Riley think she knows how to exorcise a demon from anybody? Because we don't know these imperative facts about the characters, we cannot know what motivates their actions, making the majority of their decisions feel like they were generated from the stock horror movie dumb decision playbook.

For a novel that was published under the Razorbill - the Young Adult imprint of Penguin Random House - this story went heavy on adult horror content. I didn't have a problem with it, but those looking for spooky and atmospheric horror alone should probably look elsewhere as this is filled to the brim with blood, torture and gore, as well as other adult oriented content such as drug abuse and mild sexual content. 

Vega took the time to incorporate twists and turns into this to elevate it out of just being a by-the-numbers slasher, though the way that supernatural horror elements are incorporated sort of comes at a detriment to some character's arcs. Some of the human characters in this story are deranged enough on their own that the entirety of the horror could have come from their behavior. The inclusion of supernatural horror alongside the human horror left me wondering how we were meant to feel about these characters when all was said and done. 

All in all, this wasn't a bad read. It's extremely fast paced and full of enough horror to please any fan of the genre. The Merciless is a lot like one of those straight-to-streaming platform, independent horror films out today. Though I probably wouldn't pay full price to watch a movie version of this in theaters, I'd gladly sit at home in the dark with a big bowl of popcorn and let this indulge the old scare center of my brain for a couple of hours.

3.5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Laura.
425 reviews1,244 followers
May 23, 2017
Described as Pretty Little Liars meets Mean Girls..I immediately said yes, please! The beginning felt more like mean girls, but then the book turns into something else entirely and I loved every second of it. Not for the weak, but definitely for fans of horror. I enjoyed every second in that torture house. This was the ultimate page-turner. I just could not get enough of these crazy girls! The Merciless is completely unlike anything I've ever read. Danielle Vega created a life long fan out of me in just her debut novel. This will certainly be one great author for the horror genre.

ps I probably died when I found out Marlene King from Pretty Little Liars will be writing the script for a movie version of this book. Yes please, indeed! I am so in.
Profile Image for Michael Araujo.
64 reviews44 followers
October 15, 2017
Warning, there will be some mild cursing in this review. Second warning, the review has graphic parts. Third warning, shit got crazy.

One minute you're spying on someone you barely know for people you've just met and the next thing you know, you're locked in a house with crazy people who love to physically torture others.

I went into this novel thinking it was one thing. As I read I began to notice it's not what I thought but was something else, but by the end I found out I was right all along. Without spoiling much of anything, the novel follows the main character, Sofia, as she meets some new friends who all share a dark secret. They're fucking crazy.

The beginning of the book started off with a Mean Girls vibe. I mean, you have the new girl, the three popular girls, and the weird girl no one talks to. There was even a scene that reminded me of the movie. But the comparison ends there. Once the action got rolling, shit hit the fan. I realized that these girls were seriously mentally unstable and needed some help, ASAP!

The shit that they did in the name of "exorcising" had me squirming in my seat. Now, I can watch scary movies and jump and be scared. But when I see things of physical pain, that's when I start to squirm. I'm talking, cutting of the body, nail guns, and even sliding knives under someones nails. But I lived for it. Not the actions, but for what the book was putting me through. My heart was pounding, I was jumping at little sounds, I was listening for every creak. It's not that it was scary, it's that I don't mess with pain. And these girls were psycho.

The writing was so well done, enough to get me to physically react. My heart pounded the whole entire time from the nonstop action. The beginning started off a bit slow and I couldn't wait for the good parts to come up, but when it did, boy was I not ready at all. It hit me like a train coming full speed and I was stuck on the train tracks. -spoiler alert-

I wanted to throw these girls in a room and give them a stern yelling, and then tell them how crazy they all were. What made me happy was that, these girls were all damaged. I'm not happy that they were damaged, but that they had character. From drug addiction, to straight up crazy, you knew who was who and pitied a few of them and hoped they would survive. I won't say who survives though. The twist at the end didn't get me as much because I went in thinking it was going to happen the whole book. I didn't expect it to be this way though. I flew through the novel because I couldn't put it down, and now I can't wait to continue with the second book.

It's been a while since a book held my attention with such a grip. I did get scared at one part but that's because of personal reasons. I love scary movies and I haven't found a book that scared me yet. I'm guessing I haven't found the right book, and I realized that I generally get scared with one thing. Demons. I can do ghosts, I can do aliens, and monsters and even brave scary ass clowns. But if I see a demon on screen I will shit bricks and take off for the hills. So when Sofia's abuela started screaming "Diablo! Diablo" I nearly shat myself. I put that book down and made sure the devil himself wasn't sitting beside me. Even writing about it now has me spooked and jumping at small sounds. I don't know what it is, but I don't mess with no demons. With that being said, if the second book features more of them, I'm sure I'll have found the first book that actually scared me.

All in all, if I needed to sum up the novel in three words it would definitely be, "bitches be trippin'!" And I think everyone will definitely agree with me on that.
Profile Image for Ashley Scott.
295 reviews15 followers
November 25, 2015
This was a real fart knocker, if I'm honest.

01 - this book is literal proof that ANYONE can publish a book. The industry is dead, folks.
02 - I want a formal apology from the author for the wrinkles she undoubtedly gave me, because my face was frozen in disgust and horror for at least 80% of this book.

In short: if this was an ice cream flavor, it would be pralines and dick.
Profile Image for booksnpenguins (wingspan matters).
765 reviews2,364 followers
November 15, 2019
This book is so...bland???
I've had it on my shelf for the past 3 years and now that I've read it, I almost regret it because I had an idea about it, an idea that was the farther there is from what I read, instead. It definitely wasn't what I expected, and not in a good way.
The writing was confusing, the characters badly written and dull, and the plot laughable at best.
I wish it didn't disappoint me this much. I could foresee the ending way before I reached the middle of the book and the slasher factor was more repetitive and mechanic than scary.
The only things I like are the cover (that kind of pink is my absolute favorite color) and the fact that it's pretty short and easily readable in a couple of hours. That is, if you've got two hours of your life to spend with a meh book.
Profile Image for n a t.
394 reviews184 followers
July 27, 2018
❝forgive us Father, for we have sinned.❞

um, this was not what I expected or wanted? 👿

I mean, was it gruesome? absolutely! but that was pretty much it. the rest was just your typical high school drama shit, whilst performing a good ‘ol fashion exorcism.

it kind of reminded me of a Supernatural episode, and I looove that show but I’m not sure I loved this.
Profile Image for Faye, la Patata.
492 reviews2,115 followers
July 22, 2014
I do admit that the very first reason I wanted to read this book was because of one review - Giselle's at the Xpresso Reads. She talked about how she felt like screaming at the book's happenings, and that made the horror fan in me very, very curious, indeed. I like the thrill of being scared or freaked the crap out. I don't know why, but it definitely makes me feel alive, despite the effects of it soon after (which involves clutching my blankie and sleeping with the lights on). I'm sure my co-blogger, Amir, will agree with me on this as she is a horror fanatic herself. *nudge, nudge*

In any case, I'm really not sure what to think of Merciless. It definitely made me squirm. I'm pretty certain I cringed mentally at times, maybe even shielded my eyes from the text. There are a lot of disturbing shit right here, that much is for sure, which is highly surprising given how this is aimed at the Young Adult market. This book didn't hold back with the details, which is quite fascinating, to be honest, while a bit appalling in the same breath. BUT... there were some factors that I felt could have been improved. I think for stuff like this where I'm in the middle, a list is in order.

What I Liked:

1.) The gore-y details. Call me weird or strange, but I like it when a book goes all-out. I loved the details of the "tortures" here... a few of them include: forcefully ripping out a nail, slicing some finger flesh, and, oh, biting a chunk of a face off. Ohhhh yeah, hardcore stuff right there, baby. If you're easily squeamish, beware. This is not for the faint of heart. If you're up for a challenge, though, this shit right here is legit. The shock value is quite insane.

2.) Plot-driven story. It's extremely fast-paced. Don't expect to feel a lot of impact or emotional connections with any characters. This story is quite shallow in that respect, but fortunately, I'm sure the book was made with things like those not in mind, anyway. A few things happen, and then we get a trip towards hell (which includes psycho girls and possibly demons in the flesh?), and it's one KABOOM right after another. Usually, I want more substance from the characters, but this one got me flipping pages nonetheless. The plot is enough to make you want to know what will happen next.

3.) The Ending. Quite predictable, to be honest, but I still really liked it. It definitely went into the "darker unknown" route, which I find really interesting.

What I Didn't Like:

1.) The dialogue. Many were quite... laughable. There are these high school girls who have a warped view of Christianity and Exorcism and the like, and the stuff they say to each other and to other people are so ridiculous I swear my eyes got etched into my skull due to the amount of eye-rolling activity. Imagine some cult leader fanatic saying some out-of-the-world-silly and unrealistic crap, and just replace that person with a blonde, beautiful, model-like high schooler. With two equally beautiful, popular girls by her side who serve as her "assistants". Yeah, I'm grimacing with you. *GRIMACE*

2.) The characters. Stereotypical shit aside, they weren't memorable, which probably works for the kind of book it is, which aims more at shocking you than making you emotionally invested. To be honest, I really didn't find myself caring for any of them at all - not even the main character! It's like, she may die, and I won't really cry at her funeral, if that makes sense. It would have been nicer if I weren't as detached as I was. I would have felt some sort of fear over her safety and stuff, but then again, it didn't feel like that was the goal. STILL. It would have been nice.

3.) The writing. The writing was decent, but it did feel a bit limited sometimes. Don't go into this book expecting to encounter lyrical prose. It's actually quite simple (which I guess, once again, works for how fast-paced it was), with some descriptions being very blatant.


It was an okay book for me. I only went into this because of the horror factor, and it certainly delivered in that aspect. As for the other aspects like reader connection, substance, characterisation... you unfortunately won't find it here, in my opinion. It was still enjoyable for me, so I hope you would enjoy it, too, if you feel like overcoming your fears! ;)
Profile Image for Shainlock .
737 reviews
February 7, 2019
I wasn't in such a rush to read it this time, so I think I had time for concepts and foreshadowing to click. Now I'm continuing on to the next one. There are definitely twists to this. For a long time I did not read this because of the cover. I kept thinking, wtheck is that? Is this some teen's guide to satan? Well it's not, but it is an instance of fiction where teenagers are up against those they believe are possessed and they believe they can handle exorcism themselves. Yes, I know. There in lies the story.
Profile Image for Zuky the BookBum.
592 reviews312 followers
September 12, 2016
Also read my review here: http://bookbum.weebly.com/book-review...

Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned.

Well, well, well, what can I say? This thoroughly disappointed me, after giving it some more thought, I’ve taken this down to 2 stars.

So we have 3 beautiful and popular God-fearing girls who adopt the new girl into their secretive little gang and warn her against demon-possessed Brooklyn. To cure Brooklyn of her devilish ways they decide to kidnap her, stick her in a basement and torture her, or “exorcise her”… Sound like I’m giving too much away? Well yes, I probably am, but the blurb tells you the exact same thing, making the whole suspense element of this book completely useless and a waste of the author's time. Don’t try to keep us on our toes when you’ve already told us what’s going to happen.

Due to this being a novel aimed at Young Adult readers, the language, for me, felt simple and lack lustre. I can only read so much before it becomes laughable for me, and laughable it became. All the characters speech was so unrealistic and straightforward it was almost impossible to believe anyone would actually talk like that. This unrealistic speech really made it difficult to connect to any of the characters on a deeper level so I had no empathy for any of them.

The plot, overall, is just a little bit… completely… ridiculous and nonsensical. The blandness of the characters, scenes and speech make the whole thing feel like a pretty demented, but dumb dream. I didn’t find myself shocked, scared or creeped out at any point in the entire book because it was all so juvenile and cheesy. The reasons the girls did what they did was childish and cringy and it just wouldn’t happen in the way Vega wrote it down. And let’s not get me started on all the loose ends...

Anyone up for reading one of the most predictable endings ever? My God, what an unexciting end to a pretty unexciting novel - at least it was consistent.

I did read this over the period of just one day, so it had me wanting to finish it, but not for any of the right reasons. I wasn’t reading it quickly because I wanted to know what was going to happen next, I was reading it quickly because it was getting stupider and stupider and I wanted to get it over and done with. Do I want to put myself through reading the second book in the series? I don’t know… I’ll give it some time first.
Profile Image for Ashley.
800 reviews442 followers
April 19, 2021
Star Rating: 2.5 Stars

This book, (as I’ve said throughout, in my updates) was just...



Uh... still Meh...


(Special Epilogue in this special edition was also meh FYI...)

But that was just like the last 3 chapters or whatever & I feel like it might have only been due to the 1 in the morning, things that go bump in the night, overactive imagination factor. I almost feel like the whole book was a waste (God, I hate feeling like I’m being mean in my feedback, lol). Even IF the reveal/ change had been at at a half way point, I’d still be annoyed. It felt like the author used this book purely as some too long, too boring, & too drawn out introduction to a series, NOT a novel in its own right.

That said, the ending scared the hell out of me, and I can’t help but pick up book 2. I would not do that, were it not for the last 30-40 pages, here. I really think this could have/ should have been, I mean, at least 175 pages shorter.

I don’t know if that’s an unpopular opinion, but if it is, to each their own! :))

Can’t believe I bought more books in this series after one of my VERY rare less than meh level reviews, but that ending, though. Vega sure knows how to exploit someone with book buying binge tendencies by using the good ol' bait & switch' method on them with one short set of pages SO DAMN GOOD (& SCARY—FINALLY) (bait), that you're caught unawares when the book then rather abruptly ends(switch) — & then before you can even think about it your book buying addiction kicks in, as you say a 'oh, what the hell why not!' & have bought the next few books in the series in hopes they are as good as those last 30-40 pgs. Sigh. Smh at myself.

Profile Image for Danny.
243 reviews185 followers
October 22, 2015
wow this book was gruesome!

definitely not a book for the faint of heart. I found it a little slow at the beginning and it gradually got more intense as the book went on. The twist was interesting but not super shocking.

Definitely the perfect read for this time of year, and again if you don't like books that are graphic or gory then this is not for you!

Profile Image for Liz.
250 reviews1,973 followers
June 8, 2014
I went into this book knowing it would be scary, but I didn't know to what extent, really. It's definitely horror with plenty of blood, some messed up characters, and some weird views of Christianity. Although it's not a genre that I'm used to reading, I could not stop reading! Last night, I thought I'd just read a little bit before I went to bed and ended up staying up until 2am to finish it. It's more than just edge-of-your-seat who-done-it, it's CREEPY AS HECK and WTF-worthy-- not in a negative way.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,093 reviews2,957 followers
December 29, 2017
4.0 Stars
The Merciless takes mean girls to the extreme!

Dark and disturbing, this little novel packed a big punch. I didn't think a young adult novel was allowed to be that gruesome! There were some predictable high school drama in this novel. Yet, this was still an incredibly intense story with some legitimately scary moments. Even if you don't normally read young adult novels, I highly recommend this one to anyone who loves to read about the terrible things that teenage girls do to each other.
Profile Image for Kelly Hager.
3,101 reviews130 followers
April 29, 2014
I thought I was prepared for this book. Yes, I had been warned that it's a brutal, violent, upsetting book. But, much like I did heading into Tampa, I thought, "Oh, I can totally handle this. I've been reading Stephen King since I was in fourth grade and I've loved scary movies almost my whole life. It may be a little creepy but nothing I can't handle."

I need to stop taunting fate when it comes to books like this.

This book gave me actual, literal chills and I spent about half the book feeling like I was going to be sick.

Obviously, I can't discuss the reasons why because of spoilers. :)

I will say, though, is the fact that one of the most upsetting things in the book for me was the idea of mob mentality. You would think that one person would be the voice of reason and talk everybody down but, even though she realized that it was a bad idea, Sofia keeps her mouth shut---initially because she figures it's just a prank and later, when she realizes how serious the situation is, she's afraid that if she speaks up, she's going to get the same treatment.

It reminded me of the Sylvia Likens case. (She and her younger sister went to live with a neighbor lady while her parents were traveling with a carnival for work. Sylvia died there after being tortured. The woman's children and even other kids from the neighborhood participated in this torture.)

It's not a perfect comparison (the main part of this novel takes place over a few hours, not weeks) but you get the idea.

This book is not for the faint of heart. (Or probably even the normal of heart.) This book seriously affected me (I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I finished and I want to talk about it and I want to NOT TALK ABOUT IT EVER).

Even so, this is an amazing, brilliant book. Recommended to the five people or so who can handle it. ;)
Profile Image for Kayla.
127 reviews
October 14, 2017
3.5 Stars.

I liked this one, I flew right through this book and it held my attention the entire time. MTV.com called it "Mean girls with an occult twist" and that really rang true for me. It had some very cringe worthy moments that I had to brave through but I did find myself extremely entertained and anxiously turning page after page in anticipation throughout the whole story. I will most definitely be picking up the second book. A Great eerie read!
Profile Image for Irene ➰.
508 reviews76 followers
February 24, 2017
"Some people have evil inside them, but that's what God is for, to fix them when they can't fix themselves."

Sofia is in a new school. She has to make new friends and it's not always easy. She enters pretty quickly in a group of three friends (Riley, Grace and Alexis) but she befriends as well Brooklyn, the girl who Riley thinks is possessed.
After following the group in a house, Sofia finds herself in the middle of an exorcism. But who of these girls can she really trust?

Almost the entire book takes place during one night in that house. We follow step by step what the three friends are up to, and what they'll do to try to save Brooklyn.
There's blood, exorcism, torture... A little bit of everything.

I found myself literally glued to the book, I almost read all of it in one sitting, so hard to put down!
I never read a horror book like this one. My favorite movie genre is horror, so when I read the plot for this book I immediately felt intrigued by it.
The story is creepy and some parts were even disturbing.
I loved the plot and the writing style. The book never slows down, I always wanted to know more, what happens now?!

I liked the characters, every one is very different from the other, everyone has a personality and secrets...
For me the ending was a little predictable, I had my guesses and doubts very early on, but hey, if horror is my favorite genre to watch, I'm allowed to be good at guessing in books as well, right?

I can't wait to have the sequel in my hands...
Unfortunately I'll have to wait a little because on my amazon it's not out yet sigh :(
Profile Image for Melanie (TBR and Beyond).
509 reviews366 followers
February 2, 2021
By far my favorite of the series, this one really goes for it in terms of horror and I really wasn't positive how it would turn out.  All these girls are a little psycho, think Regina George trying to save your soul through a little Exorcism, not a great thought.  Our main character was sympathetic and logical most of the time, so I was rooting for her.  This  was marketed as Mean Girls meets The Exorcist and while this book is neither as well done or intelligent as either of those films - it's still a good time.  If you like gory, campy, horror with some crazy bitches then pick this one up.
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