Sixteen-year-old trans boy Benji is on the run from the cult that raised him—the fundamentalist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population. Desperately, he searches for a place where the cult can’t get their hands on him, or more importantly, on the bioweapon they infected him with.
But when cornered by monsters born from the destruction, Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, affectionately known as the ALC. The ALC’s leader, Nick, is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly shot, and he knows Benji’s darkest secret: the cult’s bioweapon is mutating him into a monster deadly enough to wipe humanity from the earth once and for all.
Still, Nick offers Benji shelter among his ragtag group of queer teens, as long as Benji can control the monster and use its power to defend the ALC. Eager to belong, Benji accepts Nick’s terms…until he discovers the ALC’s mysterious leader has a hidden agenda, and more than a few secrets of his own.
Thank you to Andrew Joseph White, Peachtree Teen, and NetGalley for a free e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
Hell Followed with Us is a very queer YA dystopian novel set in a future that seems eerily familiar and plausible. Maybe not to the grand scientific scale that this book lays out, but I found myself cringing at familiar Christian extremist rhetoric and internal mindsets. The blending of trans dysphoria, forced body changes, and reclamation of being an “abomination” was truly well done and I found myself punching the air with my fist many times and shrieking with joy as I read through the ending.
This is a book I desperately wish I had when I was an angry teen. I read this book for my angry teen self, rooted for Benji for my confused teen self, and applauded him as my adult trans nonbinary self.
My favorite part of this novel is that it follows a group of survivors who are all queer teens. Seeing them interact with each other, interact with a militia, and seeing them grapple internally with a what is right and what is needed, was so real. The anger, the love, the confusion, the denial, it’s all there and all relatable.
AJW doesn’t shy away from the anger, the (literal) tooth and claws that are sometimes needed to fight and that is what I found most amazing in this book. While there are definite moments of “Sweetie, what are you doing?!” I couldn’t help but root for Benji, Nick, (the relationship between him and Benji is my favorite) and all the teens of ALC even watching the mistakes, watching the path they were taking.
Lastly: Please check the Content Warnings on AJW’s author page before reading. While I found it to be a cathartic read, there are some scenes that can be viscerally disturbing and you should be in a good mindspace before reading.