Published by: Tor Teen
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.
1. (+) Cas, the protagonist - Snarky, sarcastic, smart, strong (don't know if I would've lasted as long as he did without having friends to rely on). Has good intentions and is good at what he does. Cas was a fun YA male protagonist to read.
2. (+) World-Building - When I read the summary, I thought the supernatural element would focus more on ghosts... Basically, I thought it'd be something I had already read before... but this wasn't at all. I don't want to ruin the surprise for you guys so I'll just say that what makes Anna Anna is a very interesting magic that I'd like to know more about :).
3. (+) Horror Aspect - Horror movies scare the hell out of me so I steer clear of them... but horror novels? Not as scary. And though I may not read a lot of horror novels, I still thought the horror aspect to Anna was tastefully done. There is a good deal of violence, but the descriptions there weren't overdone. The book has the spooky theme without being cheesy (or just plain gross) about it.
4. (+) Twists and Turns - Definitely wasn't expecting that explanation for why things were the way they were... though I do think that part of it was kind of unrealistic--what the (side) villains did; do such cruel people even exist?... but that didn't really detract from the whole feel of the book. Altogether loved the suspense and the surprising twists and turns that Blake threw at me.
5. (+/-) The Romance - the only thing I didn't like about the romance was that the reason why Anna saves Cas wasn't fully explored. It was briefly mentioned... but since it's a major point and hell it's even mentioned in the summary, I thought it'd be something more. Something less like paranormal novels and their insta-love deal; this isn't insta-love but without a good explanation for why crazy, psychopath ghost does not kill intruder... well, I'm left a bit dissatisfied. Besides that, though, I thought the romance was pretty cute and well developed. I didn't necessarily believe in the whole love part of it, but their relationship was growing in an odd way that I found rather charming.
6. (+) The Writing - the writing was pretty seamless and fluid... didn't notice any hiccups in it, didn't have a problem falling into Cas's world.
7. (--) The Pacing - Pacing is an entirely different matter. I thought the first chapter was unnecessary... and i thought it took way too long to finally meet Anna (75 PAGES). I understand that horror probably needs some suspense before the main action in order for it to be good... but it felt like the reason for the delay was trivial, that it was obviously just delaying the inevitable. Cas's research simply went on for too long. I would've much rather had more scenes with Anna or just skipped right to it.
8. (+) Use of Stereotypes - A lot of the times, I don't like it when authors use stereotypes... It feels like a cop-out for creating real characters, but I liked the way it was done in Anna. For instance, Carmel is the queen bee, but Blake doesn't try to change it around to make Carmel some paragon--the queen bee who reforms and whatnot. Carmel felt real because of her reactions and the way they were not only consistent with what what you'd expect of that stereotype but also the way they made her... her. She was a developed character despite the stereotype. The same goes with the other characters.
9. (+) The Ending - Again, didn't really see that coming, but I do love the way Anna is open for a sequel though it still feels like a complete novel. (AKA my favorite types of endings.)
10. (+) The Cover - I've loved this cover ever since I first saw it. It does have a sort of comic book feel to it, but I think that works, especially for YA Horror. But what's best, I think, is that it's black and white with the occasional twinge of red; that brings great contrast... and that which is emphasized in black--Anna's hair, a good symbol of her otherwordliness--looks amazing. It's a good representation of what's inside.
Three cheers for Anna Dressed in Blood. A great YA Horror novel with plenty of twists and turns that'll keep you turning the pages for more.