Cas Lowood’s father was killed by a vengeful ghost while trying to slay it. Since his father’s death, Cas has taken up the job himself, using his father’s magical athame to end the life of the spirits who remain after their own deaths. He and his white-witch mother travel around from place to place, following legends in order to track down deadly specters. All this traveling has made Cas strong but quite lonely: with no friends to speak of, he is surprised at making them so quickly when he and his mom end up in a small Canadian town to track down a ghost named Anna Dressed in Blood. What’s even more shocking to Cass is that the bloodthirsty Anna spares his life in a rare moment of humanity. Faced with more questions than answers, Cas has to figure out what he believes.
Kendare Blake’s latest offering, a horror novel about a teenage boy who takes up the mission after his father’s death, is scary, funny, and really smart. Part dark comedy, part horror, and part adventure, Blake manages to balance all the story’s elements while creating vivid characters and a compelling tale. Never losing suspense or compromising its values, Anna Dressed in Blood is one of this year’s best books for young people.
An outstanding protagonist leads a cast of characters that are remarkably well-drawn for a novel in the horror genre especially. Cas is funny, vulnerable, and very real, his seventeen-year-old voice authentic. The characters who populate his world–including his mother, a kitchen witch; and Anna herself–are given detailed personalities and quirks. Whenever possible, Blake subverts the expected tropes and stereotypes, making for a very refreshing read.
It helps that Blake’s story is full of strong prose, tight plotting, and a story that never loses its suspense. It’s a violent story–Anna’s fury and her propensity for uncontrollable violence make this one fairly graphic–but it’s also funny and smart. Recommended for older teens.
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. Tor Teen: 2011.