I love horror stories and so do the kids and teens I work with. So, I was pretty excited about Bliss. Plus I got a signed copy right after M. T. Anderson at ALA, and both he and Lauren were so nice and cool!
Bliss Cavender is a recovering hippie, raised on a commune and dropped at her elegant grandmother's doorstep when her parents escaped to Canada to avoid the draft. The rich Atlanta neighborhood, not to mention showers and television, are like a strange new world for Bliss. So, when she starts her first day at a fancy school, her main goal is to make a friend, any friend; sadly, this makes her vulnerable to the evil forces that are gathering to return the spirit of a long-dead girl to this world.
Creepy, creepy! At first glance at the proposed cover (this is an advanced reader review), you will be reminded of Stephen King's Carrie. Not sure if this is intential, but since both books are set during the 70s and both deal with girls who have been shunned by society and seek revenge, it might be. Doesn't hurt to write such a happy word (Bliss) in what appears to be blood on the cover.
Appearance-wise, I also like the black pages interspersed throughout the book with quotes from the time period. It breaks up the action, shortens the chapters, and adds to the tension. Great for suspense and for drawing in reluctant readers (many of whom love horror). Also, the handwritten journal pages on what appears to be lined paper with drops of blood definitely add to the effect, while giving you insights into the mind of the disturbed girl who wrote them. Plus, the initials S. L. L. are a foreshadowing clue....
Myracle even plays with fonts, standard print for the main story and quotes, handwritten script for the journal entries, and a creepy Chiller font for the whispers from the dead girl.....
Probably what I liked best were the quotes. I've always been a fan of good quotes in a book, and in this one they serve to both draw the reader into the time period, just as Bliss is being educated about the time and people around her, and add to the creepy effect. I mean, how creepy is it to have a quote from "The Andy Griffith Show" followed by direct quotes by Charles Manson during the Tate-LaBianca trial?
I did have a few problems with the story. For one thing, while a lot of time was spent on Bliss and Sandy, very little character development happens for anyone else. I would have liked to know Mitchell and Lawrence better. Greater character development for Liliana and Sarah Lynn definitely would have helped a few of the later plot holes.
I was also a bit disturbed by the treatment of interracial relationships. Being from the South, I grew up around people who had similar opinions about "mixing the races" as many of Bliss's friends and acquaintances; and, while that part was well done, it seemed that this aspect of the story was just tacked on, just used as an explanation of why Sarah Lynn behaved the way she did, of why Bliss didn't fit in. In many ways, most of the teens were portrayed as very superficial, especially in their opinions of racial issues. There was a small change in their view that was later destroyed. I almost wish this could have either been left out or more fully developed.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book and think that most teens will, also. It was decidedly creepy and had plenty of lovely unexpected twists. It is not just another horror-themed romance, nor is it an outright gore-fest. It is creepy and disturbing, and makes you wonder about yourself, your friends, and the closed-up wings of all old buildings.