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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Alender's Old-Fashioned Ghost Story Keeps You Reading Despite the Nightmares (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Warning: If it's dark and you're alone in the house, avoid Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender at all costs. Or, if say, you're up with the baby at 2 a.m. and the house is unnaturally quiet - don't read this book. If you do, your sleep will be plagued with nightmares about malevolent Webkinz, who hiss and bleed purple when bludgeoned with a screwdriver (the only way to kill them). This is just conjecture, of course, because a ghost story written for teens would never scare me that much. Oh no. I'm just looking out for you, gentle readers. So, if the sun's up and you're in a crowded place, read on. If not, I'm telling you, leave this one on the shelf!

Compared to most of the teen horror books I've read lately (Coraline by Neil Gaiman; A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray; Sisters of Mercy by Megan Kelley Hall, to name a few), Bad Girls Don't Die isn't nearly as sinister - or original; it's more like an old-fashioned ghost story with a few modern-day twists. It has all the traditional trappings - a creepy old house; a couple of misfit girls; clueless parents; and, of course, a presence. At least, that's the only explanation Alexis Warren can think of for her 13-year-old's sister's strange behavior - if Kasey's not possessed, then she's gone totally bonkers. There's just something eerie about her obsession with dolls (a 13-year-old!); the way her normally blue eyes sometimes flash green; and the stiff, old-fashioned language she's suddenly using. Plus, Kasey, who normally ignores homework until the last possible minute is completely engrossed in some kind of secret family history project. There's no doubt about it - something is up with Kasey Warren.

In the light of day, Alexis can shrug off all the strange things happening at her house (air conditioning turning on and off by itself; doors opening and closing without human aid; a weird rotten egg smell; the way Alexis just knows things), but when a snooty cheerleader actually states the fact - Your sister is possessed - Alexis knows it's true. With the help of another cheerleader - one who may actually have brains in her head - Alexis does some research. What the girls uncover shocks them. Newspaper accounts support what Alexis somehow knows in her head - something terrible happened in her house. And someone, or something, doesn't want anyone to forget it. The question is, can Alexis stop the evil presence before it's too late? Can she save her sister, who's slipping further away with every passing day? And what about Alexis herself? Doesn't the fact that she's tracking a ghost confirm that she's the freak everyone already thinks she is? Can she save her sister and salvage her own life at the same time?

Like I said, it's an old-fashioned ghost story. It's not even terribly original, but that doesn't mean you're not going to feel some serious shivers running down your spine. The nice thing about Bad Girls Don't Die is that although it keeps the spooky going strong, there's also a lot of levity in it. Mostly it's due to pink-haired Alexis, whose sarcasm and self-depracating humor actually make this horror novel funny. My one issue with the book is that I really don't see how the Warren Family could have lived in their house for 8 years and never have heard about its history. So, it didn't ring true to me that Alexis had never heard any stories about her house. It's a small thing, really, but it detracted a little bit from my enjoyment of the novel.

Mostly, I love that this story is different - it's not nearly as disturbing as the books I mentioned above, but it's still deliciously creepy. It's the kind of book you can't put down even though you know it will give you nightmares. Still, it's the good, old-fashioned kind of scary - the kind that has you running from stuffed animals one night, and laughing at yourself the next.

Grade: B+

Thanks to Disney/Hyperion, I have an extra copy of Bad Girls Don't Die to give away. All you have to do is tell me what book(s) has/have given you nightmares lately. I will draw the name of one winner on May 20. Contest is open to readers everywhere. If you're not a blogger, please include an email address so that I can contact you if you win. Good luck!


  1. Hi, Susan! I'm glad you enjoyed the book so much. Thanks for the thoughtful review!

    (LOL... my captcha word is "unplap", which I think I'm going to start using in conversation.)

  2. My heart is beating, my mind is telling me "I have to read this book!" It sounds like one of those books I can read and then pass down for my 16 year old daughter to enjoy next! Thank you for offering this book to us in a give-a-way!

  3. I am currently reading Elantris by Brandon Sanderson and the city description is haunting my dreams

  4. I'd love to be entered for this (and enjoyed your post about your daughter's hair!) Ruth Rendell's A Judgement in Stone is deliciously creepy!

  5. That looks really good! I actually thought Coraline was the strangest book I have ever read! I kept having dreams about button eyed people, and talking dogs! It really didn't scare me that bad, but it did creep me out. I would love to be entered in this!;)

  6. The Patricia Cornwell book about Jack the Ripper. I can't remember the name, but the photographs and descriptions were terrifying. I couldn't read it when I was home alone.

  7. Wow! This sounds delightfully creepy! Thanks for giving away a copy!

    I'm sort of ashamed to admit this because I NEVER have nightmares. But I was reading Twilight right before falling asleep and I started having dreams that vampires were chasing me. I really can't believe that book gave me nightmares! I didn't think it was that scary when I was reading it.


  8. This book sounds awesome!! Please let me win, please let me win, please let me win!!!! :)

    The book that has haunted me in my dreams recently (though not in a ghost-type way) is "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas". I have always been a vivid dreamer... and Bruno and Schmuel were so real in my dreams that I'd wake up distraught off and on for a couple weeks after I read the book and then saw the movie! I was almost feeling like they were real people I knew!!!

  9. This sounds very creepy! I'd love a copy. I would have skipped it because of the title, but your review is fantastic.

    I haven't gotten actual nightmares from a book since my younger days reading Stephen King by flashlight, but Gilda Joyce: The Ghost Sonata had some delicious creepiness, as did Grim Hill: The Forgotten Secret.


  10. Oh Susan, I want this book sooooooooooooooooooooooo much. I put my name in once before and didn't win. I'm pretty hard to scare when it comes to books. I guess I just read a lot of scary stuff but I'll say the one that gave my nightmares was "The Treatment" by Mo Hayder. It stills gives me shivers to think of the plot.

  11. The book definitely gave me shivers. But then my sister was acting like Kasey possessed on good days. I liked how there could have been a rational explanation for Kasey's behavior--with everything happening in her life she could have been suffering some sort of mental breakdown.

    Oh but I did so love Alexis. I wish I had the guts to dye my hair pink in HS. Hell I wish I could now. I have the sarcasm down pat though XD

  12. A book that freaked me out was TIME OF THE GHOST by Diana Wynne Jones. It was an awesome, awesome book but I had to leave the night light on for weeks! I read the book about 10 years ago and have always wanted to read it again but am too afraid ...

  13. Holocaust books give me nightmares, and rightfully so. I like ghost stories, though they don't scare me much. Thanks for the review and giveaway.

    diaryofaneccentric at hotmail dot com
    Diary of an Eccentric

  14. That's a hard question because I can honestly say none have. Guess I haven't found the right book.
    Theresa N

  15. First, I just LOVE the book cover - very creepy! Anyway, I haven't read any good scary books in a while and this one sounds like a good one! Thanks for the giveaway!

  16. I recently read The Shining and weird, creepy dreams for awhile. Also, there is something kind of sinister about Coraline and those button-eyed parents. Ick.

  17. Well, The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham isn't a scary book, but one of the execution scenes really got to me!

    I love the cover of this book. Please enter me!

    jgbeads AT gmail DOT com

  18. I've been wanting to read this book since I first read a review on it.

    Nightmare book for me would of been Joe Hill's book "Heartshaped Box". I don't know why but it was unsettling in a 'the past comes back to haunt you' sort of way.

    Thanks for the opportunity!

  19. I would love to read this book! I would say -second sister by john saul.It was a scary book! Thanks

  20. I just finished this fun, creepy book. And I had the same feeling you did about none of them ever having heard about the house's history in all that time. Still, I enjoyed it, too. :-)


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