Dani Hoots’ Review of Hellworld by Tom Leveen plus an Author Interview!!!

Hellworld by Tom Leveen


Amazon/Barnes&Noble/Changing Hands Bookstore/Goodreads

Published by: Simon Pulse

Review by: Dani Hoots

In an effort to put her family back together, a teen struggles to discover what happened to her mother who disappeared during a ghost hunt in this haunting new novel from the author of PartySick, and Shackled.

Five years ago, Abby Booth’s mom, cohost of a ghost hunting reality show, went missing while filming in a ‘haunted’ cave in Arizona.

Since then, Abby’s life has all but fallen to pieces, most notably because of her dad’s deep depression and how they’ve drifted further and further apart.

But now, at seventeen, Abby has decided that things will change. She plans to go to the same cave where her mom and the crew went missing and to find out, once and for all, what happened there.

With the help of the cohost’s son Charlie, and two of his friends, Abby sets off on a quest for answers…but when the group ends up finding, what they stumble across in that dark, primordial cave in Arizona, is nothing they could have ever imaged.

Abby was investigating a possible haunting…she never expected that there could be something worse.

*Summary from Amazon*

Tom Leveen’s HELLWORLD is a magnificent combinations of myth, horror, monsters, and young adult fiction. I loved how Leveen was able to bring in real world aspects into a horror novel to make it feel believable. He described the monsters in such a way that made it feel like an old horror movie where you never really get to fully see what you are afraid of, which makes it all the more terrifying.


The main character, Abby, has had a troubled past of her mother going missing after leaving to a haunted cave in Arizona with the crew of a ghost-debunking show. Her father falls apart and Abby has to pretty much raise herself and take care of her dad. She then finds a book that she believes will help answer what happened to the crew that went missing and with the help of some old childhood friends, she decides to see this cave for herself.

I loved Abby and was able to identify with her. She is strong, smart, and is someone you wish something would go right for a change. You want to root for her which is always a good thing for a main character. I also like the secondary characters and feel they all play an important role in the novel.

Lastly, I really liked how Leveen tied science and religion and myth together. It made it very believable and enjoyable for me as I love learning about myths and how they connect to real life and history.

All in all I give this novel a 5/5 and definitely recommend it to anyone who likes YA and horror!


1. What was your inspiration for HELLWORLD?
The first spark of inspiration came from thinking about Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s “trilogy,” in particular “One For the Road,” one of my all-time favorite short stories. I got to wondering if vampires could still successfully take over an entire small town with our technology being what it is. King’s vamps are animal-monsters, not suave and sparkly types; if an entire town went “missing,” we’d know all about it. So what would have to happen in order for all our communication technology to mean nothing anymore? That’s where it all started. Then on a drive home from Vegas a while back, I started getting truly unnerved as I crossed a long stretch of desert with absolutely no light whatsoever. As Abby says in the book, we’ve forgotten what real darkness is. And it’s chilling!
2. How long did it take you to write HELLWORLD, from concept to querying?
Probably a year all together.
3. I loved the aspect of religion and science, how much research did you do for it? What inspired this mix?
I did do quite a bit of research — or thought I did. Just recently, before the novel became available, I started double checking some of my “facts” in the book, and discovered I no longer had any notes to support them. In fact in one instance, my research appears to be absolutely 100% wrong! (I’m not going to tell which part…) Having said that, a lot of the myth, science, and religion is accurate enough for fiction purposes; the similarities in flood myths, for example, or how things get weird when we start adding dimensions to three-dimensional space. It was a lot of fun to learn, and a lot of fun to then turn around and play with.
4. Will there be another book or is this a standalone?
This is a standalone. One reviewer snarkily referenced “the inevitable sequel,” and that really pisses me off. This was a novel bound primarily by theme, and in that sense, it asks and answers a question, like any good story should do. The ending — what they end up choosing to do — is exactly the point of this book.
5. What made you want to write horror?
I grew up watching and writing it from a very young age, so starting with SICK in 2013, it was nice to go back to it and see if I’d grown in that capacity or not. (I hope I have!) Horror often lets us explore tough subjects more easily, and that was definitely the case here – I wanted to explore the question of, what do you do when your world feels like it has literally gone to hell? When tomorrow is not going to get better? The arc of Abby’s father’s depression is a nod to this, but the whole story is really about me and my family trying to figure out what to “do” when my father-in-law was diagnosed with early-onset dementia. I don’t think I’ll ever write a novel about that; but I can write a novel about monsters and myths and use that story to study the subject from a safe distance, if that makes sense.
6. What made you want to write YA?
Being a high schooler in America (or the West in general) is like a comic book origin story. We’re figuring out our powers, weaknesses, allies and sidekicks, villains and masterminds. It has so much more energy than adults do! Even in the adult genres I am starting to work in like horror and urban fantasy, younger people keep cropping up because I find them so much more fascinating.
7. What is your favorite horror movie?
There are many, but I’d have to go with TOURIST TRAP. Gave me nightmares for years as a kid. I still get them once in a while. I don’t think I’ve watched that movie but three or four times. It was the first DVD I ever bought, and I still don’t watch it too often. I think that means it was effective!
8. How about horror author?
Well, King, of course, but I have to point to M.R. Carey and THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS as an excellent horror novel; also Max Brooks’ WORLD WAR Z, which may or may not be a horror novel now that I think about it!
9. Would you ever go ghost hunting? Have you?
I have not. I’m not sure I would or not, as I’ve grown exceptionally skeptical in my “old age.” Like, to the point it’s disturbing my writing because I keep hearing this nagging voice in my head saying “That would never happen!” So I might be up for it, sure. Because while I am a skeptic at heart, I also know there are things we have not yet been able to explain.
10. Can you tell us what you are working on next?
So many things! I have an urban fantasy out on submission right now, and I will be releasing some YA novels independently in the next few months – one contemporary and one horror that I think will be very good. It looks like I might have finally found someone who wants to make a short film of SICK which is very cool, and I’m working on the screenplay for SHACKLED. Then there’s a list of about nine or more novels I want to get back to work on. So, yeah, keeping busy!
11. How can we learn more about you and your books?
Three best places:
Twitter: @tomleveen
12. Any advice for those who want to become authors?
Write and revise. There is no substitution. I love teaching writing classes, and I still read how-to books on writing, but there is nothing better than pumping out word after word, especially when you don’t want to. Remember that 250 words a day – about one double-spaced page per day – will give you a novel in one year. 250 words a day is nothing, anyone can do that! I also recommend learning as much about publishing in traditional markets as possible – how to write a query letter, find an agent, write a synopsis, etc. etc. Because even if you end up going indie, the skills you’ll pick up while trying to get into the Big 5 will pay off.

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