August 19th, 2011

* if i'd known for just one second, * you'd be back to bother me!

Review: Bliss by Lauren Myracle

Title: Bliss
Author: Lauren Myracle
Genre: Teen Horror, Southern Gothic, Young Adult
How I got it: personal purchase
Where to buy it: From your local indie bookstore; from Powells; from the Book Depository.
In a nutshell: Our heroine is a true hippie, raised on a commune in the 60's before being sent to live in - gasp! - the non-hippy, racially charged South, with all its traditions and mannerisms and simmering tensions. Complicating issues, our heroine, determined to stick to her upbringing and never judge anyone by their outward appearances, rejects the friendship of the pretty, popular, virtuous blonde prom queen, and takes up instead with an outcast, overweight, socially awkward, mentally unstable lesbian. Who's plotting to kill people. And using a whole bunch of Southern gothic-style black magic to do it.

(It's kind of hard to make this plot sound less facepalmy than it is. More on that to follow.)


Do the characters make you want to rip your own face off? From, like, chapter two. Actually, I was mostly too busy being mystified by the subtext of this story, and second-guessing myself by assuming that the plot couldn't really be this straightforwardly sizeist/homophobic, not to mention this... typical.

Does the plot make sense? Yes! it's actually very straightforwardly a narrative about how not everything is straightforward, and sometimes things that appear to be straightforward actually are straightforward, because sometimes stereotypes are GOOD, except when they're not. oh my god.

Is the prose abysmal? The prose is actually really engaging and LM does this thing that's super-effective where she takes all these Andy Griffith Show quotes out of context and makes them somehow CREEPY AS ALL GET-OUT. Also she switches to the POV of our villain, which was actually really chilling, though the longer her narrative voice went on, the more Alpha's Evil Chipmunk voice from Up took over in my head.

Does it end on a cliffhanger only designed to make you buy more books? No, but some things make a little more sense when you realize that Bliss is actually the prequel to another book, Rhymes with Witch.

Okay, since the plot is pretty much handed to you on a platter with no surprises from page one, I'm going to come right out and say that I spent the whole book waiting for the plot to not be the plot. It made for a super-confusing read and after it was over I basically begged Cathy to tell me what I thought about what I'd just read. Which she obviously didn't do, so instead Collapse )

The problem, for me, is that while the text was saying, over and over, "don't stereotype people, take them on an individual level," it was really hard to swallow that when the text was *also* putting forth the predatory lesbian trope, the overweight loner trope, the physical deformity = mental instability and both = evil tropes. Those are a hell of a lot of tropes to put in one story, unchallenged, to force on to one character. Literally all the suspense this book provided for me was wondering when and if they would ever be subverted at the last minute. They weren't. And while I enjoyed Bliss as a read, I think the only real takeaway I can pull out from its mish-mash of cultural clashes, racial tensions, and prejudices being alternately challenged and upheld is, "some stereotypes are there for a reason." And I think, even in a book that stringently challenges its readers to think for themselves and make individual judgments about people, that's a ridiculously disturbing moral for a book to have.

But then again, maybe that's what makes it a truly effective horror novel.

Your thoughts?

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