Hideki Smith: Demon Queller

Caleb Hideki Smith, is one of the two half-Japanese students in his North Carolina small-town school—the other is his sister, Emily. He doesn’t have big dreams; he wishes he was average, white, and the type of guy with a bottle cap collection. This is, of course, impossible. After an explosion caused by nearby fracking and the appearance of a ghostly shrine, Caleb and Emily find themselves changed in uncanny ways. As they grapple with their transformations, long-hidden Japanese monsters and spirits emerge to wreak chaos.

These manifestations are not unlike Caleb’s own estranged family history; his mother is American-born Japanese, and does not allow anything related to Japan in their home. That doesn’t stop it from coming in anyway, inciting action, adventure, and some of the creepier Japanese yokai stalking through the Smoky Mountains. While this culminates in a suitable climax, it’s the dialogue and voice that shine in this book. Caleb’s funny and self-deprecating narration results in a fully-formed protagonist, propelling the plot forward with frank humour.

Key to the story is the cause and cost of pushing away one’s identity in favour of belonging, whether that be into a town, a country, or so-called reality. While this particular telling may benefit from more nuance, it’s true that a belonging such as this is tenuous and conditional, especially in a small community such as Caleb’s. The ultimate lesson here is that you can’t escape your history, but it’s in your power to decide how to face it.

Book Cover - Hideki Smith - Demon Queller
Publication Date
September 2023