Author: Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Publication Date: September 1, 2008
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 444 pages
Opening Sentence: “Grandmother won’t tolerate occultism, even of the nose-twitching sort made so adorable by Samantha Stevens, so I’m not allowed to watch Bewitched.”
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Lauren Myracle brings her keen understanding of teen dynamics to a hypnotic horror story of twisted friendship.
When Bliss’s hippie parents leave the commune and dump her at the home of her aloof grandmother in a tony Atlanta neighborhood, it’s like being set down on an alien planet. The only guide naive Bliss has to her new environment is what she’s seen on The Andy Griffith Show. But Mayberry is poor preparation for Crestview Academy, an elite school where the tensions of the present and the dark secrets of the past threaten to simmer into violence. Openhearted Bliss desperately wants new friends, making her the perfect prey of a troubled girl whose obsession with a long-ago death puts Bliss, and anyone she’s kind to, in mortal danger.
Lauren Myracle has taken the ubiquitous friendship novel to a new, dark place.
In a world full of computers, mobile phones, and television it is absolutely refreshing to read something recent that takes place in the past. All the Andy Griffith quotes and information about Charles Manson didn’t tip me off. I wasn’t aware the book took place in the sixties until, while already questioning the use of “groovy”, Bliss mentioned people chasing the Dead (as in Grateful Dead). I mean, come on! There are still hippies today, but none of them are chasing the Dead seeing as the band is no longer active. You may consider me quite pleased.
This is a pretty thick novel, with my version registering in at 444 pages, but the amount of chapter changes throughout is a huge factor, I’m sure. The pace is quick and to the point, but I never felt like information was lacking when it shouldn’t have been. Mystery? Check. Random omissions? Nope. The story is intriguing throughout and yes, often creepy.
What is with that ending, though? The whole book was stimulating and piling on more and more suspense and then at the end, like a bad movie, it just… fizzles. I don’t know what I expected to happen, but I feel like nothing was resolved. We saw what happened and that’s it. I’ve heard that Myracle’s book Rhymes with Witches is a sequel (published earlier) to Bliss, so maybe I’ll have to read that to figure out exactly what happens now, but it would have been nice to have some sort of closure. Cliffhangers are good, but when it comes to mysteries and omissions this was definitely an omission. Alas!
While I did like most of the story I was a little disgruntled by a couple character relationships. I can’t explain how tired I am of the main character (usually average by her/his own terms) getting the heart of the heartthrob that no one has been able to catch. It’s unrealistic and quite fantastical in most cases. And I read it ALL the time, of course.
Also: in what world does a person put complete trust in another person after hardly talking to them… ever? And with their most sacred secrets! It works for the story, but it’s inconsistent with the real world.
I know it sounds like I didn’t like this novel, but I did. Little details aside it’s interesting and different from anything else I’ve ever read. It might even be one of those books I’ll buy a copy of someday. I’m still feeling dissatisfied with the end, but I’ll get back to that point after I’ve read Rhymes with Witches. Until, then I’ll recommend this as something to at least try out.
P.S. I love the name Bliss Inthemorningdew.