Bliss

Common Sense Media says

IM book author tries horror; more icky than scary.

Age(i)

2
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8
9
10
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13
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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

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.

Sex

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.

Language

"Bulls--t," "smart ass," the "N" word (at least a dozen times)

Consumerism

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.

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Lauren Myracle
Genre:Horror
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Amulet Books
Publication date:September 10, 2008
Number of pages:464
Publisher's recommended age(s):13 - 17

This review of Bliss was written by

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About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byOGORMAN April 3, 2011
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Failed attempt at horror only leads to gruesome and disgusting descriptions.

This is not the type of writing you'd expect from Lauren Myracle if you've read her other books. It was much too dark in a very weird way for me to truly be interested. There are a few words used, but the main word was the N word; although this book was set back in time where there was an abundance of hippies, Charles Manson was murdering people (described quite gruesomely), and African American people were still being mistreated because of their color. Myracle, as I understand, wrote this as a horror story, but I wasn't scared. I was just extremely grossed out... a lot. Sandy's obsessions of blood offerings, possessive habits and such were a little much, and the main character of this story realizes the girl needs help but just shrugs it off instead of telling someone. I mean seriously? No normal person would do that! Which leads me to believe that Bliss is also a little mixed up in the head. If you like being disgusted then read this story. If not... then definitely don't read this. Comments? Questions? Concerns? Email me: ogormanscommonsense at yahoo. :)
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Educator and Parent Written byumbrelllainternet July 18, 2011
AGE
18
QUALITY
 

NOT APROPRIATE FOR ANY AGE, EVEN ADULTS

horrbible. should not have been written. its un godly and mentions a lot of bad things like charles manson. its HORRIBLE!!!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byvolleyballnchocolate February 28, 2011
AGE
14
QUALITY
 

Good for mature readers

This book was very original and creative. Although it may be disturbing if you don't have a stomach for horror, I thought that it was very interesting. The way that Sandy is portrayed is as a bad role model from the beginning, so I doubt that anyone's gonna want to be like her. Communes are talked about a lot, and parents may not like that.
What other families should know
Great messages

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