Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bliss by Lauren Myracle


When Bliss’s hippie parents leave the commune and dump her at the home of her aloof grandmother in a tony Atlanta neighborhood, it’s like being set down on an alien planet. The only guide naive Bliss has to her new environment is what she’s seen on The Andy Griffith Show. But Mayberry is poor preparation for Crestview Academy, an elite school where the tensions of the present and the dark secrets of the past threaten to simmer into violence. Openhearted Bliss desperately wants new friends, making her the perfect prey of a troubled girl whose obsession with a long-ago death puts Bliss, and anyone she’s kind to, in mortal danger.

Grade: B (I KNOW!)

Thank you to LM and James.

It must be said I’ve never been much of a Lauren Myracle fan. The Internet Girls series (trilogy?) may be revolutionary to some, but it bugs me on a conceptual level. I did try to read the first book and couldn’t get past the first page. Then I tried one of her full length novels, Rhymes With Witches, and while the premise intrigued me, the novel felt like a countdown to self-implode by the last page. Which, I mean, it did. The resolution left me pretty devoid of emotion.

(Trust me, there’s a point to all my negativity.)

Given as this is the prequel to Rhymes With Witches, I didn’t think I’d request it. So why did I? Well, I’d read some encouraging reviews that piqued my interest. Moreover, my friend Book Chic assured me this is Lauren’s best work. It sounded like a new direction for her, too, so why not?

Blah, blah, blah, bottom line, did I like it?

Yup, this worked for me. It worked and then some. I loved the fluidity of the writing, the suspense, and the swift but lingering pace. The way Ms Myracle incorporated the plot within real-life events of ’69 (oo la la, nice number*), I thought, was very convincing. All the pop culture and political references of that time period, like the Charles Manson Family murders, didn’t alienate me and in fact set the scene very competently.

Oh, and I was a big Bliss (title character) fan. She was likable from the get-go and had a very sympathetic voice. I also marveled at the “bad guy” character’s—Sandy’s—development. That sinister work-up was awesome.

Now, to state the obvious: This book is creepy! It’s the exact thing I’d recommend as “horror for people who don’t like/are too scared of category horror novels”. Now, I wouldn’t say it’s horror in the literal sense of the word—genre fanatics might be disappointed—but it’s definitely chilling and gripping. Each chapter is prefaced with a two-page black spread with a quote from a popular show at the time, a Charles Manson Family trial quote, or a Richard Nixon quote—very well packaged and kept the novel moving on and on and on.

Me likey.

For a dose of reality... I wasn’t a big fan of the ending. It was too abrupt, too open ended, and felt like a weak conclusion to such a powerful book. I still have many questions (Did Sarah Lynn have some sort of power? Was the fact she had the same initials as Sandy supposed to make the reader draw conclusions about the two?), and I suppose that’s what the sequel Rhymes With Witches is for, but having read that almost three years ago, I can’t recall much. It would’ve been nice if this could’ve stood alone.

Some of the other reviews complain that there is too much going on here, racism, occultism, murder, etc, etc, etc, and to be honest I didn’t even notice it until someone pointed it out. Frankly, this is something that would usually bother me, but in this novel, the only logical response I can muster up for this assessment is, “Who the fuck cares?! Weren’t you caught up in the suspense anyway??”

So, yeah, I’d recommend this one. I was not expecting this at all when I began this book, and this book alone ensures Lauren Myracle is, for the time being, on my radar. I hope she chooses to continue in this path because I for one think it’s a worthwhile one to pursue. It’s definitely one I can work with and get excited about.

While I haven’t read all of Lauren’s work to date, I don’t think Book Chic was exaggerating when he said this is her at her best. Well done, Ms Myracle. Well done.

* I never said I wasn’t perverted.


MySharonAnne said...

I'm reading this now. I didn't even realize that it is a prequel.

Lana said...

You know, this review may force me to give Myracle another chance. I read TTYL and I just couldn't deal with it. Not even because of the IMing...well, ok, because of the IMing, but mostly because the IMing felt really vapid to me much of the time. And I'm not 13.

But maybe I'll give this a shot!

Steph said...

Sharonanne - Yup yup!

Lana - I didn't even read the book, only the first page, and that was enough. I obviously can't guarantee everyone will like it, but if you want to give Lauren Myracle another chance, this is the book I'd go with. VERY different than her other novels, it seems. Like I said - I hope she keeps coming up with books like this (though a better ending wouldn't hurt!).


Anonymous said...

While I wasn't a fan of the ending either, it kinda does make sense that questions might be left unanswered. I'd definitely suggest reading Rhymes with Witches now that you've finished Bliss. I think it makes it better. Plus, there's gonna be a third book so perhaps questions will be answered then? I'm gonna wait until the series is done before passing complete judgment on the endings.

Anyway, great review, and I'm not just saying that because you linked me twice and mentioned me a total of three times in your review. It was fun to read a detailed review of Bliss from you. Kinda sad the Bliss commentary emails didn't last longer, but ah well, lol.

Glad you enjoyed it!!

Em said...

I really liked this one too. Just finished it this weekend and I think it's a great Halloween read.

WannabeWriter said...

:/ I'm constantly drawn to this one but I too am not a Lauren Myracle fan. I don't know ... now I'm tempted to just run into a bookstore, grab this one, and run. I just might have to give it a try ... *sigh* I'm so torn.

Khy said...

I still have to pick this one up, argh. I read Rhymes with Witches and wasn't a huge fan, but I want to read this one anyway. Blah.

Also, I hate this new commenting way on Blogger. *kicks blogger*

Amee said...

Nice review. Doesn't sound like my thing but it's nice to see that you enjoyed something Lauren wrote. I read TTYL and wasn't blown away, but I really liked How to Be Bad which she co-wrote with E. Lockhart and Sarah Mlyknowski. :)

Anonymous said...

I have Rhymes With Witches in my TBR pile, but I might wait to read it now, until I read Bliss. I'll have to pick it up.

Great review, BTW. You're always so funny.

Steph said...

Lana - I mean, I didn't even read ttyl. I did read this one all the way through. (Just realized how ambiguous my comment was...)

I honestly can't say how many non-Myracle fans (or how many Myracle fans) would enjoy this because I'm not God so I can't MAKE y'all like it, but like I said above, if you're looking for a change of Myracle pace, this pretty much does it. VERY different from her other works.

Thank you all for stopping by, by the way!


Anonymous said...

i just finished this last night and i was so mad at the ending so im going to read rhymes with witches cause people say it helps to understand the story .but i really hope theres theresa sequel coming out

Anonymous said...

I finished it three weeks ago and I read it in less than four days so to me I think it was one of her better ones. And I didn't know this was a prqual what's the other book

Anonymous said...

wow its really interesting hearing wot u guys think of her books
i read rhymes with witches loved it, reached the ending and HATED it. it was such a weak ending that gave NO answer and left me with the feeling she had a deadline she ad to meet . rather like a year 6 story which always ends in ' an i woke up and realised it was all a dream!' i'm might have to read the pequel to see if it really is any better ! tho if the ending to this one ends up being awful may find myself DEMANDING her to rewrite and ending! mmmm

McKenna-Ley Lancaster said...

I loved Bliss, but the relationship between Mr. Mitch and Bliss ended so abruptly (as did the end) that I just burst out crying. It's so sad. Like, God, I hate Lauren for ending them and killing ***ah **nn but I love her for the rest of the story... I feel so bipolar lol.

---McKenna Ley Lancaster
P.S.- Lol Sarah Lynn and I have the same last name!

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