Bliss – Lauren Myracle

blissBliss Inthemorningdew (no, I’m not joking!) is new at Crestview Academy. It’s tough enough to be the new girl, but Bliss’s life is further complicated by her unusual last name and the fact that her parents are hippies. Bliss has spent her entire fourteen years living in unusual places: a tent, the basement of a college and, most recently, a commune. Now she lives with her very formal maternal grandmother in Atlanta, dumped there by her parents who have run off to Canada to protest the Vietnam War. Or Nixon. Something, anyway. They’re sort of non-entities, in a very strange way.

This is a situation neither Grandmother not I would have chosen, but Grandmother is nothing if not morally upright, which made it impossible for her to turn me away. She’s also uptight, and it seems that often the two go together.

Although life with her Grandmother is odd (at least in the beginning), Bliss is looking forward to having something she hasn’t ever had before: a friend. Soon is she is navigating the impossibly complicated world of teenage drama and it’s a world about which she knows very little.

Lauren Myracle’s novel Bliss isn’t really a coming-of-age story, though. It’s sort of part mystery, part ghost story, part thriller. On some levels it works very nicely; I had no trouble turning the pages as I raced along to the book’s conclusion. In other ways, the book is perhaps a bit bloated. There’s commentary on racism, mentions of the Klan and many of the characters in this book are concerned with Charles Manson and the now infamous murders which took place during the summer of 1969.  Myracle opens chapters with quotes from Manson and quotes from the Andy Griffith Show, perhaps as a way of balancing extreme good and extreme evil. For my money, Bliss might have benefited from a little judicious editing and more of a focus on what was really intriguing:  new girl tries to fit in and gets caught up in creepy hi-jinx.

Bliss is a likable character. I’m not sure I understand why her parents dumped her. She’s smart and kind and open-minded. It was easy to be with her and to fear for her safety. I’m certain teens will find lots to like about this book

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