Friday, October 31, 2008

Don't Read This One in the Dark of Night

Bliss by Lauren Myracle
4Q 4P; Audience: J/S

I'm actually not quite finished with this book, but it's Halloween, and that makes it the right day to post about it. A big part of the reason I haven't finished it yet is because I read a lot at night, especially once I'm in bed for the night. Well, I've gotten to the point in this book where I'm frankly afraid to read it within an hour or two of trying to fall asleep. The tension has been building and building, and I'm expecting a Carrie moment any time now. I'm a little twitchy and I'm discovering it's pretty hard to read when you're trying to avert your eyes from the page because you're dreading what you're about to see. In other words, Lauren Myracle has done a terrific job setting her scene.

Bliss IntheMorningDew has recently arrived in Atlanta to live with her grandmother. It's a far cry from the hippie commune she grew up in in California. Going to school is a new thing for her, let alone a preppy private school. But she actually finds it surprisingly easy to fit in. She even makes friends quickly, leading her to wonder which two of these girls might be the ones that her psychic friend from the commune told her she foresaw in her future. Even though Flying V warned her that the vibes aren't entirely positive, Bliss isn't at all thrown. Bliss herself has had occasional contacts with the other side, and they don't frighten her. No, Bliss is determined to make the most of her new situation, and making friends will be a welcome part of that. Flying V saw her caught between two girls, but doesn't that just mean she'll have at least two friends? Isn't that a good thing?

Bliss's commune upbringing has produced a strange blend of innocence and knowingness in her. She's not unfamiliar with sex, Grateful Dead concerts, and 'shrooms, but she has been sheltered in other ways. She expects life to be as uncomplicated as it is in Mayberry with Andy Taylor and Opie. It's not. Moving from the commune to Atlanta is eye-opening. She's grown up side by side with people of different races and it's never been important before. But Atlanta has the Klan and the school has one token black student ("so they can't force integration on us"). Everyone likes Lawrence - as long as he doesn't try to get too familiar. It makes no sense to her. Why is it such a big deal that he's black? But it clearly is a big deal, as becomes apparent when she catches Lawrence and Sarah Lynn, the most popular girl in the freshman class, in a clinch. Bliss also doesn't know anything about cliques and social groups, so she sees no problem in befriending Sandy, the school outcast. While her other friends don't exactly give her a hard time about that, it's clear they disapprove. She's okay with that. People with her background don't worry much about what others think. But Bliss has no clue how much danger she's inviting into her life when she ignores her new society's conventions.

Bliss's new school has a history. Rumor has it that a girl who lived there when the school was a convent jumped from a third-floor window of one of the campus buildings. "Some say you can still see the blood stains on the pavement" a student mentions casually. Bliss's sympathy for the poor girl turns to something else entirely when she realizes that she hears a voice...the girl's voice? her head whenever she passes by that building. And she does not like what she hears. The voice is insistent, demanding, and clearly evil.

Interspersed throughout are handwritten pages from S.L.L.'s journal. Just a little odd at first, the journal entries soon take a decidedly sinister tone. As we read on, it becomes clear who S.L.L. is and how her journal entries fit into Bliss's story. And that's when the creep factor started ratcheting up for me. Reading on and waiting for Bliss to catch on too has been like watching a mouse sniff its way to cheese and start to nibble. You know it has no idea that the cheese is attached to a trap that's about to snap its neck in two, and you want to look away before it gets caught. That the Tate-LaBianca murders committed by the Manson Family is a thread woven throughout the book does nothing to lessen this sense of dread. I don't have to finish the book to know that when the trap snaps, Bliss is going to be well and truly caught in it, and what happens next is not going to be pretty.

I have read that there is a link between this book and Myracle's Rhymes with Witches. If I'm not too unnerved when I finish this book, I'm going to have to check that one out. But I don't think I'm going to want to read that one late at night in the dark either!


  1. Great review! :)

    In regards to Rhymes with Witches, it's not as creepy as Bliss, so you shouldn't have to worry too much about having nightmares. They're connected in the fact that they both take place at Crestview and are about friendships gone horribly wrong, among other connections. Reading Bliss, then RWW is so much fun because of all the connections you see between the two, most of them just minor little things and characteristics.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed my post!

    I'm relieved to report that the ending was quite as unnerving as I'd feared, so I was able to sleep that night. It still gave me shivers, though! (By the way, it has one of my favorite covers of the year. Gloriously creepy!) I wish I didn't have so many books in my to-be-read pile and on my hold list at the library, because it's so hard to squeeze in all the other (older) things I want to read too! I'm really curious about all the connections between Bliss and RWW, so I'm determined to read at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later.


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