Tomato Juice by AudraKate Gonzalez is a creepily haunting YA novel with themes of family, grief, and faith. Not only is the writing well-done, but the main character is both likable and relatable. Readers follow fourteen year-old Dean during arguably the most unusual summer of his life.
And with each strange experience, readers are more and more invested in Dean’s narrative. Though all of these are reasons to pick-up Tomato Juice, my personal favorite aspect of this book is that it is a horror book written from a Christian perspective.
A horror book in which the protagonist fights an evil demon while exploring the biblical concept of light versus darkness was something I didn’t know I needed. And know that I know AudraKate’s books exist, I need more!
Horror from a Christian Perspective
Gonzalez opens the book welcoming readers to Noir, which she describes as a place where “weird stuff is always happening.” She then includes the Bible verse Ephesians 6:12 which addresses spiritual warfare. This sets the foundation for Dean’s summer in that he must wrestle the evil that has invaded his grandparents’ tomato farm…and his grandmother.
Those that know me, know that I love spooky season a.k.a. Halloween. I specifically enjoy the cutsey side of spooky season. I like the scary side but only to a certain extent. I’m very particular in terms of horror. Gore and explicit material is not for me, and I do not like to be scared for the sake of being scared. I do, however, enjoy the feeling of suspense. And I like stories with some substance. This is one reason I like the television show Supernatural. Like the show Supernatural, Tomato Juice involves fighting demons, but the focus on faith is a unique and important twist within the horror genre. For those that don’t know, Supernatural is a show where brothers Sam and Dean fight supernatural creatures, like demons. I was so excited to connect with AudraKate and learn about her book Tomato Juice, which is the first in her This is Noir series. This is definitely a series I will be continuing!
Tomato Juice: What’s it About?
The book opens with Dean in the car with his mother as they are on the way to Dean’s grandparents’ farm in rural Indiana. It’s been several years since Dean has seen his Gran. When his Paps passed away, and the farm started to fail, Dean and his mother lost most contact with Gran. However, since Dean’s father has remarried, and his mother doesn’t feel it is safe for Dean to stay home alone in their current inner-city neighborhood, he will be staying the summer on the tomato farm.
Dean isn’t excited about staying with Gran. He feels the farm will be different without his Paps, and he’s definitely not excited a summer full of farm work and absolutely no internet. But things are even weirder than he expects as Gran is completely off. She smells–and not just like musty old, but smells bad. Plus, she is moody and doing unexpected things like locking Dean in his room each night.
Unfortunately, the shift in Gran, is not just from unprocessed grief but from a sinister and otherworldly evil. And that evil is not only threatening Dean and those he loves, but the world at large. With the help of a neighbor, the town’s pastor’s daughter Felicity, Dean must decide whether to fight for answers, no matter how terrifying, and stand against darkness, or let it consume all he knows and his Paps’ memory.
Not everyone enjoys every book genre, and that’s okay! If horror is not something you enjoy, this may not be for you. BUT if you enjoy Goosebumps by R. L. Stine or Coraline by Neil Gailman, then you definitely need to read Tomato Juice by AudraKate Gonzalez. This horror is for YA readers. There is no graphic content in terms of language or romance. So, if your young readers at home like horror, Tomato Juice is a book that could be a good choice for them. There is some violence, and stories dealing with demon possession are obviously not for everyone. However, the discussion of faith through Dean’s internal monologue and reflection is done very well and important points are made regarding God’s power and spiritual warfare. This can provide some good conversation starters for you all regarding faith in real life within your home.
I Give it 4.5 Stars…Why?
My only concern within the story is that sometimes Dean’s thoughts seem advanced for his age developmentally speaking. Especially since he is processing things independently. This was not a huge distraction though for me as an adult reader.
Final Thoughts on Tomato Juice by AudraKate Gonzalez
Ultimately, Tomato Juice by AudraKate Gonzalez is a coming of age story that needs to be added to the list of horror book classics. Fans of R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series and Gaiman’s Coraline will also enjoy Tomato Juice. But this book also provides a unique approach to horror in that it highlights good versus evil from a biblical standpoint. I enjoy this book, and I plan to read other installments of the This is Noir series in the future (spooky season is going to be lit in terms of my literature selection 😉).
Connect with AudraKate
Find AudraKate on Instagram and TikTok (@lets.get.lit.erature), on Twitter (@AudrakateG), and be sure to check-out here website.
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