I read this particular YA novel earlier this year, and it’s the book that reminded me a lot of The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray, which I gave a second read-through this past month. Alaizabel’s way better than Anna; read that instead.
But since you’re here, I might as well give Anna Dressed in Blood a review and get this Ghost Week under way. When I first started reading Anna, I thought the story had a lot of promise. (And considering all the high praise it has gotten…) The protagonist (a teen ghost hunter named Cas) seemed like a cool guy, traveling around taking down ghosts. His one-liners were bad, but I could deal.
And then the lead ghost entered the scene: Anna. Dressed in blood. Or maybe just a white dress, which sometimes has some blood on it. Whatever, she was a Canadian ghost girl trying out for a new take on The Ring, so I was pretty excited to see what would happen with her. She straight-up dismembers anyone who enters her mansion, so things were looking really good.
But then the rest of the story happened, and it just… wasn’t good. It certainly wasn’t scary, so I wouldn’t recommend it for horror fans. And though it has a lot of action sequences, it’s never particularly interesting or clever, and most of the time it’s just Cas getting beaten up by everyone. He turned out a lot less interesting than I thought he’d be, unfortunately. =/
I think a big reason for why the horror and action both fell flat is due to the author’s style? Pretty much every single character (save for Anna I suppose) is a snark-a-minute–which isn’t so unusual for YA, but the constant sarcasm grew tiring real quick in this one. There are a lot of moments where a joke is forced into a scene that is trying to otherwise be intense or frightening, and it’s like trying to build a house of cards on top of a river raft (…that’s on the river). The jokes are as forced as that analogy. It’s wearisome. And because the characters are so determined to be smart alecks all the time, there simply isn’t much in the way of emotional responses to all the crazy things happening.
And then there’s the elephant in the room… Anna turns out to be a friendly ghost? ._. When Cas shows up she decides to spare him, and we never really get an explanation for why that is… But they get to become friends, and at some point we’re told that Cas loves her… for some reason. We don’t really get an explanation for that either. Perhaps this all wouldn’t be so bizarre if we had ever seen any kind of chemistry between the two characters, but all they do is discuss ghost stuff and try to solve the big mystery of the story. There was similarly a romance subplot for two of Cas’s friends shoehorned in as well, but as I didn’t care for either of them at all (they were bad caricatures), the story feels all the more weightless and transparent… like a ghost?
Speaking of ghosts, I kind of also didn’t care for how they were depicted in this? I guess my concern stems from how they’re physical entities that Cas gets into knife fights with. It just doesn’t feel like ghost hunting when the showdowns are goth wrestling matches.
Unfortunately there is another big negative for the story, and that is its bad ending. When things turn out bad for our heroes, it’s a random deus ex machina that ends up saving the day. Great. All that build-up led to just the conclusion I was craving for. (That was sarcasm, by the way. Get the joke?)
And that’s that for Anna. There is a sequel novel for this (with a really nice cover), but I feel like this is a “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” situation. I want to like the cool new ghost hunting YA series everyone’s talking about, because I’m a fan of basically every puzzle piece that the Anna story uses. But why did the puzzle have to turn out to be a picture of Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo???