A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Bliss' hippie parents leave her with her grandmother when they flee to Canada. A group of girls share offensive stereotypes of who they call "colored kids." When Bliss describes braiding her black friend's daughters' hair, another girl says, "Hope you washed your hands." A teacher uses the phrase "Nigra girl" and Bliss discovers some fathers at the school belong to the KKK. Sandy spits at another girl and constantly makes fun of Sarah Lynn. A girl practices "blood magic" and wants a human blood sacrifice. A girl lets her cat suckle her breast and then later suckles the pregnant cat's teats. Sandy steals money from a nursing home resident.
Violence & Scariness
Extensive references to graphic details of the Manson murders (number of times people were stabbed, crime scene descriptions), as well as quotes from members of the "Manson Family execution team." Sandy calls Charles Manson "Charlie" and explains that his mother was a prostitute and he was raped in juvenile detention. A girl tortures a cat by denying it food and water and keeping it in unsanitary conditions (her entire room is a litter box). Liliana, a novice at a convent, commits suicide by jumping out a window after being kept in a cell and beaten with a whip. Another girl keeps a piece of the Liliana's skull as a relic. A girl's dad fires a rifle at a ceiling in the middle of a dance because his daughter is dancing with an African American boy. The daughter falls off a platform and dies when her skull smashes on the floor. Sandy drinks the blood.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The main character's full name is "Bliss in the Morning Dew," a reference to her conception by her hippie parents. Sandy sleeps naked in a shared bed during a sleepover, then describes sleepovers as a 10-year-old, drawing designs on her friend's stomach with a licked finger.
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"Bulls--t," "smart ass," the "N" word (at least a dozen times)
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Products & Purchases
References to buying makeup and hair products (Bliss has a department store makeover), but not by brand.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
References (but no use) to weed and 'shrooms.
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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.
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.
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