Book Reviewed: Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake
I got a Kindle from my parents for Christmas, and so far I love having it. It's cheaper and easier for me to buy romances and new books, and my library has digital lending, which means I can now access library books on the go and carry them around in one place. I will still be buying trade paperbacks and poetry in paper form, but the Kindle should do wonders for my reading habits, I think.
This is all background to the fact that the first book I bought for my Kindle was a teen paranormal romance. Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood made NPR's best-of-2011 young adult books list, and the book's description sounded right up my geeky alley. Cas Lowood, a teenage ghost hunter, goes to Thunder Bay, Ontario, in pursuit of an infamous ghost with the creepy moniker of Anna Dressed in Blood. Cas is cynical and avoids attachment, focusing only on his goal of one day going after the spirit that killed his father. In the meantime, he travels all over North America, hunting down violent ghosts. Basically, this book's set-up sounds like Supernatural fanfiction. Which is exactly why it appealed to me.
However, when Cas gets to Thunder Bay, his plans don't quite work out. First, he accidentally makes some real friends with the popular but loyal Carmel and dorky, lonely Thomas. Then, Anna doesn't turn out to be what Cas expected. Yes, she's a violent killer. But that's only because of a complicated and tragic past that trapped her in her haunted house. Cas eventually falls for and helps Anna, but when his own scary past catches up with him and his new friends, he struggles to figure out just what his new life of friendships and a false sense of security might mean. Anna Dressed in Blood is the first part of what looks to be a longer series (the next book comes out sometime in 2012), so it's got a rushed ending that isn't wholly satisfying. Also, while I couldn't help but like Cas, I had trouble with the character of Anna. It's easy to see how their two lives would endear them to each other, but I'm not sure I quite believed the romantic angle in the second half of the book. Same goes with the budding relationship between Thomas and Carmel.
Anna Dressed in Blood is not a great book, and I'm not exactly sure why it got so much end-of-the-year praise. Despite that, it was still a fun read. There are some genuinely terrifying moments in this novel, and Blake knows how to write creepy in a way most pure horror writers can't even manage. (This might actually be one of the book's weaknesses: the horror stuff is so good that you can't help but wonder why the book wasn't geared more toward that genre). I think the relationship between Cas and Anna has the potential to expand in more interesting ways in the later books, though, so I will probably follow the rest of the series as it goes along.
Note: I am once again working at the library and if any paranormal-reading teens ask me for recommendations, I am throwing this one their way for sure.