Review: Highway to Hell, by Rosemary Clement-Moore

This is the third (and so far final) book in the Maggie Quinn vs. Evil series. I really enjoyed the first two (Prom Dates from Hell and Hell Week), but I have to say I was a little disappointed in this one. However, I will admit that much of my disappointment can be tied to my expectations that the book was going to be something that it was not.

The story follows Maggie Quinn and her old high-school friend D&D Lisa, aka Lisa the Evil Genius, on their way down to Padre Island in south Texas for a week of spring break debauchery. Along the way, they get sidetracked and end up spending the bulk of their week investigating a local legend and ultimately going into battle against capital-E Evil.

Some of the other supporting cast of do-gooders show up to join in, and the locals add their own skills. Probably what I liked best was seeing them all come to rely on one another’s strengths. It was reminiscent of the final battle in the summer movie Avengers when they finally stopped bickering and worked as a team. And the Evil and the supporting history for it fit together nicely.

However, I was really expecting them to actually reach Padre Island and run into some as-yet-unknown capital-E Evil down amongst the bikinis and beer kegs. You see, to me, much of the charm of the first two books was how Maggie dealt with Evil amidst some common rite of passage. The first book was battling a demon in the run-up to high school prom, while the second book dealt with curses and blood pacts all tied in with a college sorority’s initiation rituals. This one seemed to be aimed at the rite of spring break.

So I figured they would be fighting Evil during the road trip itself or on the island of crazy parties and loose morals. (Not that Maggie Quinn’s morals were ever going to be all that loose. I mean, really, she’s a good girl.) But still, I was expecting another rite of passage. Yes, the conflict occurred on a road trip, but the road trip wasn’t really part of the story. It merely bookended the tale, providing an excuse for their arrival in middle-of-nowhere and a reason for their eventual escape, so it wasn’t even a proper road trip, with bad fast food, dirty rest stops, scary truckers or any of the other elements of a long cross-country trip. Instead of a rite of passage, they were out-of-towners tangled up in some local legend.

I suppose if I could have gotten past that, I would have enjoyed this book a lot more. After all, the plot and characters really worked, but in the end, I confess I felt like Private Hudson in Aliens asking, “Is this going to be a stand-up fight, sir, or another bug hunt?” Well, as my reaction shows, it was a bug hunt.