Monday, April 15, 2013

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Are you a fan of both horror and romance, but hate the way the Twilight series tried to meld the two like I did? Maybe author Kendare Blake can offer a solution through her Anna Dressed in Blood series and its sequel, Girl of Nightmares. Now, I have yet to read the first book in this series, Anna Dressed in Blood, and though I suggest reading this book before Girl of Nightmares, the book is more than capable of standing on its own.

Cas Lowood is a teenage ghost hunter. He, along with his friends Thomas, the smart and awkward witch, and Carmel, the tough but bubbly popular girl, travel throughout northern-Michigan and Canada, sending harmful, dangerous ghosts on to the "other side". In the previous book, SPOILER (but necessary to understanding this book) Anna Korlov, a beautiful young girl brutally murdered in the 1950s and object of Cas's affections, sacrificed herself to save Cas and his friends and was dragged down to Hell. Now, she is appearing in Cas's thoughts, distracting him from his ghost hunting duties. Suffering in Hell, Anna calls to Cas for help from well beyond the grave. Bent on saving her, Cas inadvertently uncovers a centuries-old secret organization protecting the secrets of the afterlife from him. Will Cas be able to save his ghostly love? Met with overall positive reviews, Blake provides an exciting emotional roller coaster, packed with scary paranormal action and genuine romance, that is a great read for both male and female audiences.

Horror and romance are two of my favorite sub-genres of literature. Melding the two is an interesting concept. The book most people think of when they think of horror/romance is Twilight. I loved the idea behind Twilight but hated its anti-feminist execution. Kendare Blake succeeds in finding a much better and less offensive way to meld horror and romance. In the Anna Dressed in Blood series, Anna first saves Cas and his friends. In the second book, it is now Cas's turn, but although Anna wants nothing more than to be out of Hell, Cas's safety is of equal importance to her. She loves Cas and wants to see him, but upon learning that her calling out to him is putting Cas in danger, she refuses to continue contacting him. She tells him not to come to Hell, but Cas is going to try anyway. The relationship between the two is genuine and believable, although it is between a ghost and a human. It isn't awkward or forced like Twilight's Edward and Bella.

Though a very entertaining book, I would not recommend this book for use in a classroom. Though more feminist than Twilight, the book doesn't have an overtly positive message. It actually has a very similar overall message to Twilight, though much better executed. The relationship between Cas and Anna is powerful and more realistic than Twilight's, but it is very unhealthy in the same way. The message of the book is to do anything for the one you love, and they mean ANYTHING, like literally going to Hell and back. It is important to keep in mind that Cas is only 17 in the novel. I believe this sends an unrealistic standard to young readers; your first love will be your "true love", and you must do anything for them. This isn't always true, contrary to many young adult novels including this one.


JessicaGeelen said...

I love the way you compare this book to Twilight! It's a series I'm familiar with and, as you mentioned yourself, didn't quite love for a number of reasons.
Your review is totally making me want to read these books so that I'm able to offer an alternative to the Twilight series.

baboonfan said...

Nick Petersen: I'm intriqued. I too hate Twilight with a passion for what it has done to the horror/sci-fi/fantasy drama. A book should make you question things, or at least give you a new take on the genre. Twilight doesn't do this, it just recycles the same tropes to appeal to an audience of lovesick tweens. Girl of Nightmares sounds like the kind of book that leaves you changed at the end. What happens after we die, what makes a person a ghost, what is heaven/hell, is there such a place, are thoughts that came to me as I read your post. That is what the sci-fi/fantasy genre is for, making you question the things you never even think about in your everyday life.

Renee Thornton said...

I completely agree with the dangers of the idea that your first love is worth all of the crazy things that teens do in novels. But at the same time I think what they are capturing is the strength of the emotions that you have at seventeen and that come along with a first love. I too disliked the ani-feminist Bella and others like her in teen novels so its nice to see that this book offers an alternative to that. Strong female characters are an invaluable tool in books that young girls will read.