7Overall Score

“I was impressed that Guarente was able to start with Trevor being a disconnected, unlikeable ass, and still make a decent transition to a character than readers can actually root for.”

Satan’s Prep

Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Writer: Gabe Guarente
Artists: Dave Fox, Luis Chichón, Tricia Van den Bergh
Release Date: August 2014

High school, as everyone who’s been through it can attest, is awful. There is no worse experience you can force young adults through. It is a virtual Hell for anyone just trying to get through puberty.

So what if a student died before they graduated? What if that student wasn’t really all that great a person and was condemned to Hell? How would that be worse? For Trevor Loomis, his personal hell is to continue going to high school indefinitely. One that’s no longer populated by other “normal” teenagers, but one filled with zombies, demons, and terrible children who also died at a young age. Trevor is now seventeen forever, and has to endure extreme tortures far beyond what any living being could even survive.

That’s the setup for Gabe Guarente’s Satan’s Prep which came out from Sky Pony Press a couple months ago. The book starts with Trevor’s death, and follows through his introduction to the school, and a series of progressively more horrible acts of bullying from other students, teachers and of course even the principal himself, Cerebus. Trevor does learn that by raising his Soul Point Average to 3.0 (from negative 2.8 billion) he might get transferred to Purgatory.

As he trudges through each day, Trevor does make a few friends. Fellow outcasts who are also picked on, and one goth girl who he begins to fall in love with. The story then revolves around Trevor trying to redeem and/or save his friends, and get himself out of Hell.

The story flows along reasonably well. I would have liked a little more connectedness between various trials Trevor undertakes; the vignettes we’re presented with chop up the progression a little more than I think was necessary. But I have to say that I was impressed that Guarente was able to start with Trevor being a disconnected, unlikeable ass, and still make a decent transition to a character than readers can actually root for. That’s no small challenge for a writer to deliberately present a bad first impression of their protagonist, and hope they’re able to alter readers’ opinions by the end.

Most of what I enjoyed about the book were the originality of the tortures inflicted on Trevor. During dissesction for biology class, for example, Trevor is in fact the one being dissected, and he’s still expected to follow along so he’s left completely conscious while his torso is spread out over the table. There was also a pleasantly surprising reveal with Trevor’s girlfriend Persephone towards the end of the book as well.

Although the basic premise of the book is pretty simple and straightforward, the challenge with something like this is in its execution. Particularly with a rotating crew of artists whose individual styles hamper some of the book’s cohesiveness. The concept alone brings any number of potential story beats to the reader’s imagination, and it would be impossible to bear them all out. Guarente, however, does a good job of handling things, though, especially given some of the story challenges he sets up for himself here.