Written by Jennifer O’Sullivan of Dover, Massachusetts
The Forces Within, the 5th book in Stacy Padula’s Montgomery Lake High series, tells a story of how Satan can enter the lives of people who are not strong in their faith and ruin friendships with the people who matter most. I think that people who feel jealous or scared in their lives should read this book, because it reveals reasons as to why this might be happening. Due to the reality that teenagers are often dramatic and jealous, when someone’s friends start acting out of character, it is chalked up to teenage antics. In reality, something a lot more serious could be going on. This book reveals the truth about spiritual warfare and how Satan’s battle to bring someone into his Kingdom can affect them in a variety of different ways. Anyone who feels like they are being lead astray into a place of darkness should consider that they could be in the midst of a spiritual battle. I had never been aware of what spiritual warfare was or how it worked before reading this book, but after reading it, I have thought about people in my own life who might be a part of this battle. Anyone who reads this book will be made aware of the dangers of not having God on his/her side and will learn how to arm themselves with faith against the dangers of the world, which I think is very important.
In The Forces Within, many things throughout the story kept me engaged and interested in every page of this book. One part of the book that kept me particularly interested was the setting. The MLH characters end up in a haunted mansion in the middle of the woods that appears to be on an island with no escape. In the mansion, the teens find secret passageways and hidden rooms, both of which lead to various other secrets that seem to be buried inside the house. The teens stick together and navigate these scary, intricate hidden passageways without knowing what dangers might lie inside. Surprises kept popping up during the explorations of the mansion and there was always something happening, which I loved about this book. Whether the teens would stumble across a new secret room or find hidden clues about what was going on, I would constantly be left wondering what these things meant or what would happen next. This book revealed more important lessons than how to navigate a secret passageway, but as a reader, the setting was an aspect that made this book extremely interesting and fun to read.
I think there are many hidden messages within this book, but one that I found particularly interesting was one about trusting the people around you. While the MLH characters are in this haunted mansion, some of the friends begin to act suspiciously and turn on one another. Many of the characters, including Andy, become confused about who they can trust or who’s intentions are sincere. Andy begins to think that he is the problem and that he is somehow misinterpreting the people around him, but his friends later reveal that they were feeling strange too. The mansion, which was filled with demons, was bringing about the worst in each person. Although the characters were acting unusually because they were under Satan’s control, the characteristics that they portrayed were still a part of them deep down. The hidden message in this case is that it is risky to trust someone who is not living in the image of God, because otherwise they could be under the influence of Satan. Even if someone has been your friend for years and seems very kind, he/she could be tempted by Satan and could in turn tempt you. I had never thought that being friends with someone who is unfaithful could be harmful to me, but this book made me realize that.
In this story, the MLH teens end up in a haunted mansion together. People start acting strangely, having nightmares and feeling like they’re being watched. Throughout the book, it is easy to think that you are simply reading a thrilling mystery about teenagers, yet this is a carefully calculated way to later reveal the truth about the spirits and demons hidden among us all. Regardless of whether or not these teens believed in God, it became obvious to them after some time in the mansion that the people in their friend group who walked with God were protected from the horrible things going on, but the others were not. The teenagers also realized that the strange thoughts that they were having was Satan trying to tempt them, which is why their faithful friends were protected from it. This book made it obvious that the battle for a person’s soul is intense and draining, and without God on your side, you are much more likely to lose. The Forces Within shows that ignorance is not bliss when it comes to how faith can affect everything about your life, from how it can make you act to how it affects your dreams and desires.
AFTER BEING TRAPPED INSIDE HIS OWN BODY, UNABLE TO COMMUNICATE WITH ANYONE BUT HIS OWN THOUGHTS, ANDY ROSETTI FINALLY WAKES UP FROM THE COMA THAT CONTROLLED HIS LIFE FOR ONE MONTH. BUT UPON AWAKENING, ANDY FINDS HIMSELF AND HIS FRIENDS IN AN UNFAMILIAR SETTING: A MANSION RIDDLED WITH SECRET PASSAGES AND SUPERNATURAL FORCES. AS HIS FRIENDS FALL PREY TO THE ENTITIES ENCOMPASSING THEM, ANDY MUST FIGURE OUT IF THE DARKNESS LIES WITHIN THE MANSION’S WALLS OR WITHIN THE PEOPLE SURROUNDING HIM.
THE FORCES WITHIN WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED SEPARATE FROM THE MONTGOMERY LAKE HIGH BOOK SERIES. IN 2018, IT WAS ADDED TO THE SERIES BECAUSE IT FOLLOWS THE JOURNEY OF THE MONTGOMERY LAKE HIGH CHARACTERS AFTER BOOK #4. THEREFORE, IT CAN BE READ APART FROM THE SERIES WITHOUT CONFUSION.
About Jennifer O’Sullivan
Jennifer O’Sullivan, a rising senior at Dover Sherborn High School, enjoys reading, playing the piano, spending time with friends and doing volunteer work. Jennifer leads her school’s community service club, runs on her school’s cross country and track teams and loves to travel, especially to Ireland where she spends time with friends and family.
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