Monday, July 30, 2012

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Pub date: August 7, 2012.

Author website.

It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor.  (

Now my main issue with GIRL OF NIGHTMARES is not turning into a blithering fangirl idiot in this review.  But that's going to be really hard because it's horror and YA and unforgiving and AWESOME.  I'll try, though.  I'll try.

This time around Cas, for the first time ever, is trying to be a normal teenager.  He has stayed in the same place for nearly a year and will even renew his tenure at his current high school.  A never for him.  As a result he's attempting to date (thanks to Carmel) and move on from the whole Anna issue.  Except she's not letting him move on.  Cas starts seeing her everywhere and it gets to a point where he starts questioning his sanity.  Lucky for him his marbles are all where they should be and something far deeper, and grander, is going on around him.

Blake doesn't spare punches in GIRL OF NIGHTMARES.  While it doesn't have the feel of "truer" horror (as in the genuine scare factor involved) to me there's still an unyielding, unforgiving horror to her storytelling that'll slot it in with the rest nicely enough.  Blake is unforgiving with her gore, the trials she puts her characters through and the means they need to meet in order to achieve their ends.  And she does it with such well-timed snark that I'm in awe of it.  It's not forced, it never feels like a contrivance and it fits in genuinely with it's surroundings.  Said snark is used sparingly but in just the right moments that it hits perfectly and it left me giggling more than once.

I had an issue with Cas referring to Anna as his girlfriend.  That's just a level of morbid that surpasses even my rather effed up capacities.  And it's also rather sad that the only girl Cas felt he could have a connection with was a murderous dead one.  I felt sorry for him on a few different levels but at least the entire story was realistic about it.  Yes, he referred to Anna as his girlfriend.  Creepy.  But it didn't delude anything.  There was no talk about bringing her back to fleshy life so her and Cas could live happily ever after.  Cas knew she was dead; Anna knew she was dead.  Different planes of existence.  Full stop.  Patrick Swayze got off back in Albuquerque.

I also had problems with Cas's mom and whether I was supposed to think of her as a good mom for letting Cas do his thing or a bad mom for letting him do his thing.  Probably one of the main reasons for them having to move so often was if they stayed in one place Cas's mom would have the Department of Children and Families wedged so far up her ass she wouldn't be able to walk.  At the rate he keeps ending up in the hospital (he tripped and fell into a campfire?  might as well just make him walk into doors too) all signs would start to point to child abuse.  But he's Cas and following in his dad footsteps and this is the family business blah blah blah.  But I really wanted his mom to be a real mom and be like, "EFF THAT.  You're grounded."  She wasn't though.  She made her candles and enabled his behavior and cleaned his wounds.  I don't know how I feel about that.  She fit the story and if there were a contrivance here she'd be it.  Luckily for the story as a whole I was able to suspend my disbelief enough to tuck it back.  She's not very prominent and I was so caught up in the action that I wasn't able to dwell on it long enough anyway.

There were tears at the end so beware.  It was shocking.  I kept trying to guess where it was going to go but, as you know, I kind of suck at that so I was nice and surprised by the ending.  It was unexpected and refreshing in that it didn't pander to the "norm" in YA.  All the more reason to love Blake.  She writes her story and everyone else be damned.  This is it and nothing else.

GIRL OF NIGHTMARES was an excellent continuation of the ANNA series.  Well worth the wait and not at all disappointing.  Just the right amounts horror, gore, fear, tears, snark and sass, GIRL OF NIGHTMARES hits all the right places at all the right times.  YA needs more horror and I'm so incredibly happy that Blake is a contributing factor to even that imbalance out.  It's nominally free of romance (except for Cas's, um, issue, I guess) but it has some hidden angst found in the likes of Thomas and Carmel, the comic reliefs in what is otherwise a pretty dark story.  I have no doubt GIRL OF NIGHTMARES will be a hit and will have people salivating for more ANNA.

Ban Factor: High - We see things getting tortured.  Shit comes back from the dead.  There are swears.  It's all over, folks.
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