Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
August 30, 2011; Tor Teen
*Sorry for being a bad blogger the past week or so. I've been traveling and having visitors, so I haven't commented nearly as much as I usually do. I'll try to catch up in the next few days until I head out of town again for the weekend. Everything should be back to normal by next Monday or Tuesday.
Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story. . .
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.(courtesy of Goodreads)
Anna Dressed in Blood was a fun page-turner that almost, but not quite, lived up to the hype. Ghost stories are not the most popular paranormal in YA, but they neither are they uncommon. Anna Dressed in Blood is a new take on the traditional ghost story. Cas is a modern day Ghost Buster (Don't tell him that though. He makes a lot of swipes at the Ghost Busters). After his dad's death, he took up the family occupation of finding violent ghosts and re-killing them - with a special knife.
Cas was the highlight of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the world through Cas's eyes. He starts off the book very arrogant and sure of himself. Not arrogant in a way that's annoying, but rather in the sense of a guy who is very good at what he does and knows it. I think his arrogance might also be masking insecurity and loneliness of not having any friends and moving so frequently. But you'd never know that. Cas is a lone gunman. When popular-girl Carmel and loner geek Thomas try to get in on his game, he pushes them back. But of course, since it's YA, eventually the friends get in on the game and it becomes a group effort.
The game of which I speak is Anna. She is a seventeen year old ghost who was murdered on the evening of her first dance. She now haunts her old home, killing anyone who enters. But when Cas is pushes into the house as part of a prank she spares him. Why? We see in great detail that Anna doesn't spare most people. The book veers into the horror genre by highlighting several very gruesome killings. I didn't think it was scary or gross, but I don't scare easily. It was certainly fun to read though. Simply the willingness to go places most YA novels wouldn't dare is one of the best features of Anna Dressed in Blood.
Anna is a wonderfully layered character. She is a nightmare in every sense of the word. But unlike the other ghosts Cas kills, she realizes the horribleness of her actions and hates herself for them. She and Cas form an odd sort of friendship. Part of him wants to kill her and part of Anna wants to die. Another part of Cas is fascinated by her and part of Anna wants to find a way to continue existing without violence. Despite knowing very clearly what Anna is capable of, I pitied her and wanted her to "live."
While I get irritated by the "necessity" of placing friends in a prominent role in every YA, I did like Thomas and Carmel very much. Carmel especially. She is the queen bee - the beautiful, popular girl that everyone wants to either date or emulate. Kudos to Kendare for creating a unique "popular girl" mentality. Carmel had a dominating personality, but was also kind, smart, and brave. I liked that she insisted on staying involved in Cas's ghost quest. Thomas was a little irritating but in the somewhat endearing way of a little brother who always tags along. Thomas comes from a wizarding family and was very useful. He's the type of person who grows on you the more you get used to him.
The plot was full of twists and turns. There was extreme violence, moments great sadness, page-turning suspense, even hints of romance. I did think the plot sort of petered out at the end. Once a big revelation about Anna was made, I thought the story became more predictable and a little cheesy. But on the whole, it was a very well done story. I would definitely check out Anna Dressed in Blood!