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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book is a departure from Myracle's previous, light instant-message novels. It's an often disturbing book involving human blood sacrifice; occult rituals (including a reference to "Holy Communion"); graphic descriptions of the Charles Manson mass murders; the KKK and numerous uses of the "N" word; animal torture; and interspecies breast suckling. The end message is depressing, with evil triumphing.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Bliss, the 14-year-old child of hippie parents, leaves her life on a commune in 1969 to live with her wealthy grandmother in Atlanta. Bliss's liberal upbringing leaves her ill-prepared for the South's racism and class issues. On top of coping with an elite private school, Bliss has "the sight" and hears a chilly voice telling her she is "the key." The voice belongs to the spirit of Liliana, a girl who committed suicide on the grounds years ago, but still has power to control people through a relic of her body. When Bliss resists the voice, Liliana finds a new vessel to do her evil bidding -- but it's not who Bliss suspects.
Is it any good?
BLISS is, in a word, icky. It starts out with a promising, engaging narrator in Bliss, but amps up the gross factor way too high with its gratuitous piggybacking of the Manson cult murders and unnecessary animal torture. The author incorporates so many themes -- hippies, racism, class, history, school cliques, the Manson trial, and the occult -- that the result is ominous and yet full of plot holes. (Would a teenager really stay in a friend's room for a sleepover if it was covered with dusty cat feces, just because she doesn't want to disturb her grandmother at the country club?)
Myracle gives equal weight to the evil of the Tate-LaBianca slayings, the Ku Klux Klan, and her malevolent spirit who controls girls from the dead, demanding a blood sacrifice. It cheapens the tragedy of the real killings, and the real hatred targeted at African Americans. Between each chapter are two full pages, completely black and blank except for random and entirely bizarre quotes from such things as '70s advertisements, The Andy Griffith Show, and Charles Manson. It adds to the feeling that the author intends some deeper meaning, but exactly what that could be is very unclear. Most disturbingly, the girl who kills another girl wins in the end, attracting friends with her newfound "power," while Bliss is left on her own.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Sandy emotionally manipulates Bliss and ways Bliss could have been more forceful in standing up for herself. They can also talk about books and other media out to shock readers/listeners/viewers. Does this type of media appeal to you? Why or why not? Fans of the author can answer if they prefer this genre over her instant-message books or not. Is it always a good thing when an author goes outside his or her comfort zone?