Bad Girls Don’t Die – Katie Alender

So, there’s nothing wrong with Katie Alender’s novel Bad Girls Don’t Die. It’s the story of Alexis, a high school student who takes photos, thinks her doll-loving twelve year old sister, Kasey, is kind of annoying and goes out of her way to distance herself from just about everyone at her school. Alexis is smart and Alender does a terrific job of capturing her voice from the very beginning of the novel. Although like many teens, Alexis takes herself a tad too seriously sometimes, she’s also self-deprecating and intelligent.

Alexis has a lot on her plate. Her parents are generally absent from her life and she is often left in charge of the household and her sister, who starts acting weirder and weirder. Added to all this, Alexis finds herself drawn to a new student at her school.

Bad Girls Don’t Die is a ghost story (think Jane-Emily rather than Stephen King).  It’s not particularly scary, although there’s enough of a  creep-factor to get younger teens huddling together with the lights on. 

I think my reading of it suffered from having recently finished The Hunger Games – which is a kick-ass book. Bad Girls Don’t Die pales by comparison.

Dark Love by various authors

Dark Love, edited by Nancy Collins, Edward E. Kramer and Martin H Greenberg, was published in 1995 and has been sitting on my tbr shelf for two or three years. This is a collection of short stories where “there’s no love without obsession…and obsession is the underlying theme of every story.”

Given the pedigree of the included authors Ramsey Campbell and Stephen King among them, readers should approach this book with caution. Some of the stories are downright icky. “The Penitent” by John Peyton Cooke I’m looking at you. That one starts out with the line: “Every since I was a young girl  I’ve wanted to torture a beautiful young boy.” Trust me, it goes downhill from there.

The Stephen King story, “Lunch at the Gotham Cafe” was a new original story at the time of this anthology’s publication. I like King and while this story has much to recommend it – mainly a narrator I believed in – the story was kinda silly. For some reason, I kep thinking about the Muppet’s Swedish chef as I was reading.

My favourite story of the bunch was “Hidden” by Stuart Kaminsky. It would make a great episode of Criminal Minds – more creepy than anything else.

Fans of the genre will likely enjoy this volume.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

There’s been a lot of excitement in the house over Suzanne Collins’ book, The Hunger Games.  Both of my kids have read it and have been harassing me to read it, which I finally did. I have to say – I loved it as much as they did. So we thought we’d talk about the book a little..

Mallory: This book takes place in post-apocalyptic North America. The people of North America had attempted a rebellion against the government, but weren’t successful. So, the government split them into 13 Districts, and each year as a punishment,  every child ages 12-18 in every District has their name put into the Hunger Games. They draw two names from each District and those people must compete against kids from other Districts in an arena. It’s a fight to the death; last one standing wins. Basically, the main character, Katniss Everdeen from poor District 12 takes her sister’s place to go into the Games.

Christie: That’s a great summary, Mallory. It’s a terrific premise for a book, not altogether dissimilar from the 1987 film The Running Man.  Of course the stakes are a little higher in the book especially since the players are just kids.

Mallory: Katniss is 16 when she went to into the Hunger Games, so she was one of the older kids competing. Imagine how hard it would be if you were just 12, trying to kill 17 and 18 year olds. Katniss is such a great character, and Collins did an incredible job building her up. Every moment of the book I was so scared because I loved Katniss and didn’t want her to get hurt.

Christie: I agree, Mallory. I loved Katniss from the very start of the novel. She’s resourceful, mature and brave. When we first meet her, she demonstrates her willingness to break the rules to provide for her family. She’s a good hunter, she wastes nothing and you get the sense that she could handle herself in just about any situation. But she’s not the only admirable character in the novel. Who else did you like, Mallory?

Mallory: Well, I must say that I love Gale, Katniss’ best friend, and Prim, her sister (who were introduced at the very beginning of the novel). But as the novel progresses, we meet many more amazing characters, some that we love, and others that we hate. Like, Rue, a contestant in the Games who I adored. What about you?

Christie: I’m with you, Mal. All the characters were really well drawn – even characters you don’t get to know very much about, like Cinna and Thresh. As you get to know some of the other Tributes (contestants), it’s impossible not to get attached and what’s remarkable is that Katniss feels admiration for some of these people too, even though she knows she might have to kill them to stay alive. The Games themselves were very exciting, didn’t you think?

Mallory: Well yeah! They were amazing! What an incredible concept for a book. I wish I had thought of it first, because it’s just so clever. Everything about the Games seems so real, so legitimate. She doesn’t make them seem like a board game, or something you play. Collins really gets it across to you that the Hunger Games are about fear, and death, and despair. The Games are so scary, that you just feel really sad for the Tributes, even if they are merely characters that came out of Collins’ mind.

Christie: Beyond the suspenseful plot and characters, Collins has created an interesting and scary future-world and, for me, the writing was crisp and readable – a nice change from a lot of the Young Adult fiction out there. How does this book compare to other books you’re reading, Mallory?

Mallory: Honestly, The Hunger Games isn’t really comparable to the books I’ve been reading because it’s just so different, and that’s what I love about it. Most YA Fiction out there at the moment is either about vampires or rich girls with dirty secrets. Sure, I like Twilight, and books like Pretty Little Liars, but The Hunger Games sets itself apart from all the generic and boring books.

Christie: A lot of kids I teach are reading it (or have read it) and I’d say 99% of them have loved it. And for my money – this book is heads and tails better than the Twilight series.

Mallory: My school is having the same Hunger Games craze too! Most of my friends (I’d say 85%) hate to read, and will only force themselves to open a book if it’s absolutely necessary. But surprisingly, a ton of them have read The Hunger Games (girls and boys) and they loved it! The book has been passed around the entire grade 8 french immersion population, and instead of gossiping at lunch time, we all discuss our favourite parts. It’s a nice change.

Christie: Well, I guess that makes it unanimous, then. The Hunger Games: loved by boys, girls and moms!

Breaking the Girl by Kim Corum

I’m not going to lie – I enjoyreading erotica. But I have standards, people. And Kim Corum’s ridiculous novella, Breaking the Girl doesn’t meet any of them.

Kristine is a stripper in New Orleans. She didn’t set out to be a stripper. She’d gone on holiday with her friend to escape her recent marital break up and suddenly she and her friend found themselves bumping and grinding on stage at a strip club. The money was good so Kristine – who doesn’t have any other talents besides sex – stuck with it.

Enter Frank. Handsome and rich (although we never find out what he does), he takes a shine to Kristine and invites her to come live with him. Yeah – it really is that simple.

Thus begins her training. To the untrained eye beating someone with a belt until they’re so disoriented they fall down the stairs might be considered abuse, but everything Frank does is for Kristine’s own good.

Breaking the Girl is meant to be a novel about domination and submission. Okay, I’m down with that. But this book just doesn’t have anything to recommend it. The sex was pretty tame (and let’s face it, isn’t that why we read this stuff?), the characters were cardboard cut-outs and Corum tries to add heft to the story with a bunch of hooey about why Frank needs to “break the girl”.

So, so mediocre.