Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

ImageYoung adult is not typically a genre I delve in to, and when I think back to when I was a teenager, I don’t remember reading much of it either.  I think I skipped a chunk of my reading life and moved almost immediately into adult fiction and haven’t looked back, so this one was a bit of an experiment for me.

A bit about the plot.  Cas is a teenaged boy who travels the world killing ghosts who continue to haunt the world be performing grisly murders of their own.  Trained by his now-dead father, Cas goes where he is needed, attends a new high school. and is his down time, lurks the most haunted places hoping to ensnare the ghost and kill them…again.  Always cautious to avoid making friends or letting anyone in on his secrets, Cas is in for a surprise when he moves to Thunder Bay with his witch mother to take care of Anna, a young woman who was murdered in 1958 on her way to a school dance.  Inevitably, this case is different for Cas as he is forced to rely on some new friends to overcome an extremely powerful being who’s body count continues to grow.

Teen drama aside, I was pleasantly surprised. There were things that I assumed would be there (teenage protagonist, high school cliches, and in new YA novels, a touch of the supernatural to draw the readers in) but I liked that the writing didn’t seem to cater specifically to a younger audience.  There was profanity, graphic descriptions of murders, and some downright creepy moments as haunted houses are explored.  Perhaps this is true for most YA fiction these days, but it’s good to see that fiction isn’t talking down to teenagers.  Authors are trying to write interesting (albeit usually unbelievable) stories that still say something about being a teen without making it a sermon about how to survive high school.

I was impressed with the quality of writing, though perhaps I shouldn’t have such low expectations.  The plot moved well and had a good mix of expected and unexpected elements.  Some of the characters fell a little flat, but our hero was well thought out and the story benefited from being inside his head at critical moments. As a professional killer of ghosts, he’s our expert in the supernatural world, and from a narrative perspective, it’s essential that we know what is normal in his life, and why things go wrong when they do.

I would go so far as to say that after reading this, I will read more YA in the future, albeit with a grain of salt and discerning eye for authors who can handle this genre well.  At the first hint of a sparkly vampire, I’m out.

 

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