Honestly, there’s a lot of things I could say right now, and all of them would be true. I could say that Hell Followed With Us is a testimony to the pent-up anger against the church that many LGBTQ+ youth hold due to the large role it has played in our oppression. I could say that Hell Followed With Us is a book that shows the true horror of biblically accurate angels in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world. I could say Hell Followed With Us is officially one of my favorite books ever. All of these are facts.
Hell Followed With Us is a book by Andrew Joseph White, who is transmasc, just like me. It follows the story of a transmasc boy named Benji hailing from a Christian terrorist group that is slowly turning him into a monster that is intended to be a seraphim, which is one of the highest-ranking angels according to the Bible. He and a bunch of other queer kids band together to fight back against the hatred and oppression they face. It is a story of a minority that to this day is still persecuted and oppressed from all sides biting back against the ones who hurt us. It is beautiful, it is gory, and it is angry. I relate to it.
I’ve never been Christian or Catholic. The closest contact I’ve had with the church are my time as a choir kid and the Unitarian Universalist church I used to go to as a kid before I realized it just wasn’t for me. I don’t like being inside or near churches anymore. There’s something about standing singing on an altar as a third grader with a crucified Jesus staring down at you the entire time that makes churches the most stifling, uncomfortable places on Earth afterwards for the rest of your life. I don’t really have a reason to be angry at Catholicism and Christianity. I have friends who are Christian. I have family that is Catholic. I don’t particularly hate those religions or really have any severely negative experiences with the church, but I feel the anger anyways, because just because my Christian friends and Catholic family have not hurt me doesn’t take away from the generations of religious trauma the LGBTQ+ movement has suffered from. Just because the ones I care about have not hurt me just because of their religion doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there who will and who already have. Even if they do not hurt me directly, their actions . Andrew Joseph White has captured that trauma perfectly, and that’s half of what makes the book so good.
What’s the other half? Well, I have a soft spot for biblically accurate angels. I think they’re fascinating and we need more depictions of them. One could appear to me and go “Be not afraid” and I would still pee myself out of sheer, unbridled fear but it would be awesome. I’m a sucker for that body horror with too many eyes type of thing. The fact that you then take these things and essentially reclaim them in a book that strikes back against lifetimes of trauma and oppression from a religion that has harmed so many is the best thing ever.
Long story short, I think Hell Followed With Us is a great book. I think every queer teen who likes body horror and wants to fight God should read it. I think even people who don’t want to fight God should read it, if only just to get a sense of what’s been bubbling up in the LGBTQ+ community for decades. Fuck fascism. Fuck homophobia. Fuck transphobia. Fuck oppression.
Read the book.