Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Scary Books

Alender, Katie. From Bad to Cursed
Alexis' life isn't easy. Her sister, Kasey, had a bad run in with ghosts in Bad Girls Don't Die, which resulted in the family home being burnt down and Kasey spending her 8th grade year in a mental institution. Now that Kasey is back (in the family's new suburban, ghost-free pre-fab home), Alexis is bound and determined to try to have a normal life with her boyfriend, Carter. She still loves photography and is accepted into a competition. Carter is running for student body president. Kasey is trying to fit in at school, and succeeding due to her involvement in the Sunshine Club. Alexis is concerned, goes to the club, and finds herself having sworn allegiance to a spirit named Aralt who lives in a book and is channeled by the Club. For a while, all of the girls are benefitting from the involvement, but things quickly worsen. What does the spirit want? And why is Alexis' family caught up in yet another web of nasty, nasty spirits? I think there will be another book after this!
Strengths: Like Bad Girls Don't Die, this one had a lot of vivid paranormal occurences set against a school setting that made them seem believable. It was scary, but not so that it would keep me up at night. Sort of Mary Downing Hahn or less predictable Betty Ren Wright. The first book in this series is UNBELIEVABLY popular, so I was glad to see the second. Good stuff.
Weaknesses: Kasey's involvement with the evil spirit seems less in this book, which distracted me, and the relationship between the girls and the evil spirit was a bit more complicated than I would like. Not a bad thing; I just had trouble following some of it.

Strasser, Todd. Blood on My Hands.
Callie is at a kegger when she finds the dead body of her arch nemesis, Katherine. In a panic, she kneels by it and touches the knife that killed the girl. Unfortunately, Dakota is there with her cell phone and snaps a picture.

After Callie's brother beat their father almost to death, Callie's family has fallen apart. The only thing keeping her going was her boyfriend, Slade, who is in the army but not being shipped out because of a knee problem. But because of Katherine's evil machinations, the two have broken up. Callie doesn't know what else to do but run, and get in contact with Slade.

Callie spends most of the book hiding from the law, trying to disguise herself but also trying to figure out who really did kill Katherine, in order to clear her own name. Her investigations unveil some surprising connections. Who really did kill Katherine? And why do they want Callie to take the blame?

Strengths: My students constantly want murder mysteries, and this one is perfect. A gruesome killing, a girl on the run, evil plots put in place by popular but disturbed children. Strasser's writing seems so effortless, as well. This is in the style of Wish You Were Dead, which the students really like.
Weaknesses: If a similar theme hadn't shown up in Wish You Were Dead, I wouldn't think much of it, but the girl who was killed was a lesbian, and one of the reasons (not to spoil things too much) that her killer killed her was that if she killed Katherine, maybe she would stop feeling attracted to girls. Or a variation on that. It's not discussed in depth, and I didn't come away thinking that lesbians were all pyscho killers, but it was a jarring moment. Still, the mention is brief, and the book is appropriate for middle school.

Griffin, Adele. Tighter.
Jamie gets a dream summer job watching one quiet young girl on a fancy resort island. Her problems? She pops pills pilfered from her parents constantly, and the girl who was au pair the previous year was killed with her boyfriend in a plane accident, and Jamie looks oddly like her. Still, she is able to make some friends, hang out, and still get her job done. Still, she keeps seeing the ghost of the boyfriend, and believes that the house is haunted and the boy's ghost is somehow after her. Is the idyllic life on the island going to result in horrible consequences?

Strengths: A compelling read which I enjoyed. The summer community of rich people always is a good setting for a book.
Weaknesses: The pill popping was disturbing. Jamie doesn't care how many or what kind she takes, she doesn't care if she mixes them with alcohol and almost passes out, and her mother, once she realizes pills are missing, doesn't seem overly concerned. And here's a spoiler: Jamie's problems are not really with anything supernatural. She's having severe mental problems, no doubt exacerbated by the drug abuse. I liked the ghost story, so was sort of disappointed that it was all hallucination. In short, this is more of a high school book. Very good, but the drugs and mental illness take away from what I was looking for-- a good ghost story.

1. 22 miles 2. 18 books 3. 18 quilt tops

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