Delusion by Laura Gallier has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Delusion” series.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Owen and his alcoholic mother move to Masonville, Texas, after his grandparents die and leave them a house with over 1,000 acres of land. The local high school is in a maelstrom, as 11 teenagers have committed suicide. Various media outlets descend each time another teen dies, and religious protesters troll the sidewalks, calling on students to repent.
Owen worries that his new girlfriend, Jess, is growing depressed. After school, he takes her on a ride through his family’s property, hoping to cheer her up. The two hear a sound, like a torrent of running water. They find an abandoned well that is dry.
They leave, but Jess realizes she doesn't have her phone. Owen heads back to the well, alone, to find her phone. He sees an old man at the well. The old man asks Owen if he is there to help. The man lowers a bucket into the well, and the teen is amazed when he pulls up a full bucket of water.
Although the old man tries to convince Owen that the water would help him understand the town’s suicide problem, Owen refuses to drink the water. He finds Jess’ phone and takes her home, but he can’t get the old man out of his head. Owen returns to the well and find that old man is still there.
He explains that some things have to be believed before they can be seen. He promises Owen that he will get the all the answers he wants if he drinks the water. Owen drinks and is struck with an excruciating stomach pain and a headache. He barely gets home before passing out for the night.
In the morning, Owen’s stomach still hurts, but his headache is gone. When he goes outside, he sees a bizarre sight. A woman jogger runs toward him, but she is dragging 8-foot chains behind her. The chains are attached to a shackle around her neck. Black cords sprout from her head and smack the chains.
Owen runs inside, convinced he is experiencing some kind of hallucination. When he tries later to leave the house, he is again confronted by another horrifying vision of a person in pain. He also sees the word “rage” painted on his neighbor’s fence. On his own garage he sees the word “suffer.”
Owen tries to convince his friends about what he is seeing, but they think he needs therapy. His mother thinks he is using drugs. While she sleeps, Owen decides to investigate her chains to try and decipher whether he is imagining them or not. He discovers they are extremely heavy and cold.
On an open cuff of the chain he sees a name scribbled on it. On the black cords from his mother’s head he reads the word angry. On her ceiling, victim is written. When Owen questions his mother about a name on her chains, and she becomes angry. The name was of a past abusive boyfriend.
Owen returns to the well, and although it appears dry, when he draws the bucket up, it is filled with water. He takes some to give to his science teacher to see she can find any bacteria in it that would make him sick. She promises to get him results in a few days.
Stuck back at school, Owen tries to navigate his classes and the hallways, even as he sees his classmates shackled and chained. Then he is subjected to a new horror. A giant creature, as tall as the ceiling, smelling vile and covered in sludge, enters the room. It approaches another student and attaches itself to her.
Then he begins to see more of these monsters around the school and calls them Creepers. Unable to cope with this new vision of the monsters, Owen runs home. There, he receives a text from his friend Lance, telling him that Jess has dumped him and is going to the upcoming prom with her ex-boyfriend, a boy named Dan, who used to abuse her. Owen hides in his room for the weekend, hoping that on Monday his teacher will have a scientific answer for what he is seeing.
Unfortunately, tests showed no bacteria in the well water. Although he still sees the horrible visions, he is amazed when he sees a girl without a shackle. Or cords. Or chains. He loses track of her when she goes into the girls’ locker room but remembers her name is Ray Anne. He tracks her down, and she agrees to go out with him that weekend. He calls her, and the few others like her, “Lights,” because of the glow from their feet.
Owen tries to find a way to keep the Creepers from attaching themselves to his friends, but only one thing seems to be able to stop them. He calls them Watchman. They are taller than the Creepers and radiate a blinding, crystal-white light. They also exude a beautiful fragrance and wear thin gold crowns. The Creepers separate themselves from their human hosts and flee when the Watchmen appear.
Owen knows he is seeing some kind of battle between good and evil, but he does not believe in God. The school authorities believe Owen is suffering from stress and assign him a mentor. The mentor is Dr. Bradford, the father of Dan, Jess’ new boyfriend. Dr. Bradford used to be a close friend of Owen’s grandparents. He promised to help instill their beliefs in their grandson. Owen gets a bad feeling about the doctor and vows to keep his distance.
Owen finds a confidant and helper in Ray Anne. Although she barely knows him, she believes his visions. She thinks they may be demonic and promises to try to help him. She explains that she and her family are free of the Creepers because they are Christians.
On Sunday afternoon, two friends come over to play basketball. When the talk turns to Owen’s weird visions, his friends insist he take them to the well so they can drink the water. He warns them they will get sick before they see anything and tells them to come to his house first thing in the morning so he can explain what they are seeing. But the boys never come. Owen is horrified to learn they died overnight. He lies to the police about what happened, as he does not think they will believe him.
Owen is plagued by the visions he sees, including the horrific death of one of his friends, in which he sees a huge demon drag her soul into the ground while she screams for Owen to save her. He sees the same demon and learns it is Molek — the king of demons — in his school. Molek throws several lower demons into a burning hole.
Ray Anne finds Owen shivering in fear. He tells her that Molek is plotting something awful for the school. Ray Anne thinks she would be more help to Owen if she could see the visions he does, but Owen makes her promise not to go to the well.
Later that night, when she thinks he has betrayed her, Ray Anne succumbs to the torments of several Creepers. Owen begs her to remember who she is and what she believes. When she finally starts to pray, Watchmen arrive and the demons scatter from her.
Owen and Ray Anne begin to theorize what a series of notes left by the Creepers mean. The notes all contain three letters and the numbers 523. They guess 523 could be May 23, and the letters could be initials, but they cannot fathom what the Creepers have planned for that date.
A few days later, his friend Lance, Dan and several other boys abduct Owen. They want to punish him for the death of the two other boys. Though Lance can't beat his friend, Dan pummels Owen until the old man returns and saves him. He explains that Molek has ruled the land for over a century, especially since Owen’s grandparents had been satanists who made sacrifices on the land to Molek.
Dan’s father was one of their followers. As Owen starts home, Ray Anne spots him and drives him home. She returns to the well and drinks the water. When she wakes from a pain-filled night, she can see the supernatural world that Owen sees. He is horrified to learn that he, too, has shackles. He begs her to tell him the names on his chains, and they are his mother, Lance, Dan and someone named Stephen Grayson.
Owen returns home and demands his mother tell him the identity of Stephen Grayson. She finally admits that he is Owen’s father. They married young and against his parents’ wishes. When she became pregnant, his parents convinced her that Stephen would be better off without her and the baby. They offered to pay her a large sum of money each year for 18 years for Owen’s care and education, as long as she divorced their son and never contacted him again.
But the worst news was that when she tried to contact him a year ago, she found out that he went missing on a missions trip and is presumed dead. In a fit of rage, Owen runs away. After reading an interview his father did, in which he felt his gifts gave him a calling to help those in need, Owen realizes he should be helping the people in his town to fight Molek, not running away. He returns home on May 22.
As Owen and Ray Anne approach the school on May 23, Creepers are swarming it. Ray Anne goes inside to see if she can spot what is causing the disturbance while Owen searches outside. The Creepers flock toward Dan, and Owen sees two rifles strapped to his back.
Dan enters the school and begins shooting. As students flee in panic, Owen follows Dan to try to stop him. Dan takes Jess hostage in the auditorium, and Owen races to protect her. The two boys face off. Dan kicks Owen to the ground and fires his rifle. As the police storm in, Owen discovers that Dan had intended to shoot Jess first, but Ray Anne jumped in front of the bullet. She is taken away to the hospital in critical condition.
Owen stumbles to the woods and finally prays a prayer of surrender. A Watchman comes and protects him from Molek. The Watchman confides that evil did not win at the school, but Owen may not understand how until some time in the future. After the Watchman leaves, Owen is shocked to see he is now a Light, like Ray Anne. He is thrilled to be free of his chains but knows that this is just the beginning of his adventure.
The story deals with spiritual warfare between God’s army and demons. Owen is given a drink that allows him to see the demons that torment humanity on a daily basis. These creatures of lust, anger, depression, regret, etc., chain themselves to their hosts and can eventually burrow into a person’s being.
As Owen is not a Christian at the beginning of the story, he is not sure at first what he is seeing. He calls the demons Creepers. They and Molek are the forces of evil, and they battle the Watchmen, forces of good. Owen eventually comes to recognize that when people are under demonic influence, their human eyes are just as dead as those of the Creepers. There is a depravity and aggression that he can see.
The Watchmen do not like when Owen bows to them. One throws him across the room as punishment. Owen notices that some people, like Ray Anne and her parents, have a glow that appears around their feet. Small children have the same glow, but from their chests. He comes to realize that the children are innocent and have not been chained by the Creepers.
Ray Anne and her family are Christians, which is why they glow. Owen is surprised to discover that even in a church, many people do not glow but are chained. Owen realizes that Molek may be king of the demons, but he cannot be God because he needs his minions to come tell him things.
Owen comes to believe in heaven because the Watchmen obviously hail from someplace glorious, a place of peace. Ray Anne lays out God’s plan of salvation for Owen, who then prays with her, admitting he is a sinner and promising to try and commit his life to God, but he does not receive the light that Ray Anne has. It is not until much later, after Ray Anne has been shot, that Owen prays and surrenders his life to God. He then receives the light.
Ray Anne and her parents say grace before meals. Ray Anne has vowed to save her first kiss for her wedding so she can honor God. Owen discovers that his father went to serve people in Africa because he wanted to show them God’s love.
Other Belief Systems
At first Owen cannot believe that God exists because he does not think a loving deity would let the Creepers torment people like they do. Owen tells Ray Anne that religion is a farce, a myth people made up to give them hope. He thinks that God is a cruel and narcissistic being.
Girls at a party play with a Ouija board. Owen tries to convince them that demons are making the pointer to move, but the girls refuse to believe him. Owen learns that his grandparents were Satan worshipers, who often made sacrifices to Molek on their property. Dan’s father, Dr. Bradford, was one of their followers.
The phrase Thank God is used as an expression in context as well as godforsaken and h---. Objectionable words/phrases used are crap, butt, no freakin way and suck.
Dan once grabbed Jess so hard during an argument that he bruised her arm. When Owen overhears Dan gossiping about Jess, he thinks about breaking his nose. Dan, Lance and several boys take Owen out to the woods. When Lance refuses to hurt Owen, Dan begins to beat him. The other boys kick him, punch him in the face and pull his hair.
Owen saw his mother being strangled by a boyfriend. Owen grabbed the man’s gun and threatened to shoot him if he did not let his mother go. The man left the house, and Owen and his mother fled to Texas.
Dan shoots several students as he searches for Jess. He kicks Owen to the ground and threatens to kill him. As Dan aims his gun at Jess, Ray Anne covers her body, taking the bullet herself. She is rushed to the hospital and it is unclear whether she survives.
The descriptions of the Creepers, their actions and appearances are disturbing, gory and scary. One labeled “Suicide” pukes up mucus into its hands. After rubbing its hands together, new mouths with black tongues appear in its palms. It then puts these mouths next to a girl’s head and forces its tongues down into her ears. Black drool runs down her neck. Owen sees the girl’s soul being tormented by demons as she dies. They plunge their hands into her abdomen and rip out her soul. She begs for mercy and fights for her life. The demons strike her in the mouth. A larger Creeper with a pale face drags her into a black crater to her death.
In the school cafeteria, Owen sees a vision of hell. The walls look like human body tissue with legs, arms and heads reaching out while voices curse and scream. A fire burns from somewhere below and the body parts are scorched and burned. Creepers push back anyone who tries to get out.
Jess kisses Owen on the cheek. Owen is attracted to Ray Anne and thinks about kissing her, but she is saving her first kiss until her wedding day. When Owen sees Jess' sun-glossed skin, he thinks that it is begging him to touch it. Owen is at Ray Anne's house and wants to "pull her on top of me, escape for a little while under the weight and touch of her body."
Owen overhears a girl in his class talking about how her boyfriend had used her. She gave him the one thing he wanted and then he broke up with her. Jess tells Owen that she slept with Dan. She also admits that her uncle sexually molested her as a child. Owen sees Jess bruised and with a torn skirt. She admits that Dan hurt her after she told him “no.”
Alcohol: Owen’s mother is an alcoholic who drinks to deaden her emotional pain. She often passes out in a drunken coma. Many of her boyfriends drink as well. They favor beer and wine. Jess and several teenagers drink alcohol at a party.
Tobacco: Owen remembers one of his mother’s boyfriends used to smoke cigarettes.
Lying: Owen often lies to keep himself from looking stupid or to keep from getting in trouble.
Suicide: The message in this book is that all suicidal impulses are the result of spiritual warfare or demonic oppression. There is no mention in this story of mental health, depression, etc., except as symptoms of demonic attack.
You can request a review of a title you can't find at email@example.com.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.