Anna Dressed in Blood is a young adult novel about a ghost hunting boy that falls in love with a regretful, murderous ghost. Yeah, I thought it was weird too. Rating: 3 Books (stars).
It’s October, and that means Halloween is just around the corner. I love scary stories, I love being scared, and I love the adrenaline rush that comes with it. I used to devour those Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Goosebumps books growing up. So when this book was brought up as a group read I was really excited, and then I started reading it and I wasn’t excited anymore. Anna Dressed in Blood is a good book, but it’s not great. It follows a teenage boy named Cas who travels the country killing murderous ghosts just like his father did before he died. It’s all very Supernatural (like, the CW tv show starring Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki). *Warning, Supernatural gifs shall ensure* I mean, the kid’s name is even Cas (which is the name of the angel friend in SPN). The difference here is that the boys of Supernatural have a gun called the colt, and Cas has a knife called his Athame, which is connected to his father and his lineage and all that.
The book starts out really strong. The first chapter is our first ghost kill, and I loved the backstory that Kendare Blake gave us for the ghost. Ghost stories are always better/more spooky when you know the inner workings of the ghost. The story of the hitchhiker didn’t scare me, but it made me excited. Nothing else exciting happened for 5 chapters. 60 whole pages of blah blah blah. During those 5 chapters I started to really dislike Cas, and that’s a huge problem for a book. When you can’t like the main character. Luckily Anna, the poor murdered soul from the 1950s, shows up during chapter 6 and kills one of Cas‘ classmates, so then we can all get down to business.
It took me a really long time to like Cas again, if I ever started out liking him, and it took me just as long to like his new friends Thomas and Carmel. I mean, Carmel is just such a dumb name as it is. I liked Anna instantly, even as she was ripping Mike in half in front of everyone. I even liked Will, Mike’s best friend, who was super defensive about Mike’s death and took it out on just the right people. The whole story was set up for a sequel, which surprise! There is one. There were characters like Gideon and Morfran who I don’t completely trust, and they will obviously have a bigger part in the next book. Overall the characters were realistic. Carmel was the queen bee of the school who only went after Cas at first because he was attractive and brooding and new, so typical. Thomas is the nerdy kid who is kind of weird because you can tell there’s something about him (psst. he’s a psychic/mind reader) who has a crush on Carmel, so typical. Mike, Will and Chase are all football players who are going after the new kid just because he’s new, so also typical. Usually these stereotypical characters piss me off in books, but this time it fit the story, and Thomas and Carmel grew more and more likable (and started to leave their stereotypes) towards the end of the book. She also had the characters swearing, and when characters swear I instantly like the author ten times more. Having a teenager in today’s age NOT swear is completely unrealistic, and it takes away from the book just as much as having a character that swears too much. Teenagers don’t describe guys as “hunky” and they don’t say “dang!”.
There was a not so realistic coupling in this book, and I was completely werided out by it the entire time. Cas the ghost killer and Anna the murderous ghost…. in love? I mean yeah, Anna doesn’t want to kill and she tries to control herself around his friends, but still. She’s a super sweet girl (ghost?) but it just happened too fast. If she was going to force the coupling it would have been nicer to see it shape out in the sequel. The whole book he was internally fighting over whether or not to kill her, and then the last hundred pages he was like, “Alas, I might love her! Everyone thinks I do but me!”. And then it was all, “Oh, okay. Now we’re kissing. Twice. Totally normal”. Except it wasn’t normal. I don’t know why it weirded me out so much since I paranormal romance books all the time, but this one was just weird. I think the reason it felt so weird is because of how the author set it up, but that could just be me rationalizing.
The best part of the entire book was definitely when Cas and his group set up the circle to see what made Anna so powerful. By doing so they, and us as readers, got to see exactly what happened to her that caused her death. Part of it was really predictable, soon-to-be step dad wants a piece of her, and others were way out of left field, creepy dark witch mother cursing her dead daughter. It was tragic how this girl died, and it brought a sense of realness to the ghost character, and it made her my favorite character of them all. The poor girl was ahead of her time and just wanted to leave her house for good, and instead her mother used dark magic to keep her in the house for all eternity. Until Cas took the dress she died in and put it over her head and set her free. Yeah, that happened.
Actually, I totally lied. The best part of the book was the red font throughout the whole book. Red like blood. I’ve never really seen a book (other than for children) that had a font color different than black, and I really thought that was brilliant. It fit the story well, and it made me happy every time I saw it, which was a big deal considering reading this book was kind of a chore.
There were a lot of really funny parts as well, which is always a breath of fresh air during a serious book. Anna actually had some great lines like, “God, living people are so annoying”. It was Cas though that had some of the best one liners. Good enough that I wrote them down, how lucky are you guys?
“No. I dream about penguins doing bridge construction. Don’t ask why.”
“I’ve been Obeahed by an Obeahman? Is this like how the Smurfs say they smurfing smurfed all the time?”
“Move, hunt, kill. Like lather, rinse, and repeat.”
“But hey, at least we’ll have this strange story to tell, love and death and blood and daddy-issues. And holy crap, I’m a psychiatrist’s wet dream.”
Carmel and Giddeon also had some great lines about Cas being like a Ghostbuster. I’m also really excited that I get to use this gif:
There was a lot of foreshadowing to the ending, which I completely missed. Though, the climax to the ending happened within the last 30 pages, so I didn’t exactly have time to catch on to anything. I don’t like a book where the whole story drags on and then you have to swallow the entire ending in such a little amount of time. It gives me no closure as a reader, and it just becomes too anti-climatic. Like, oh I just spend all of this time reading 260 pages and then you’re going to throw a curveball at me last minute. I understand some people may like that, but I don’t. The entire story was set up to have a certain kind of ending, and then you introduce a brand new voodoo demon thing on page 276, a demon that has been getting stronger with every ghost Cas kills and is the one that killed his father – the one that Cas was going to go after at some point, and they just kill him no problem on page 312 because Anna drags him through a magic hole in her floor? What. the. fuck. Maybe this means they’ll make a reappearance in the next book and we just have to be patient. Too bad I don’t have patience. Also, what if I didn’t know there was a second book? Regardless, I didn’t like the ending. It kind of ruined the whole book for me, a book I worked soooo hard at liking.
There were some parts I didn’t like, like how easy it was for Anna to just act normal toward the end of the book. At one point she was carrying a six pack of Dasani up the stairs of her home to get ready to trap and evil demon. Oh? A ghost from the 1950s just finds it completely normal to carry plastic bottles of water into the house she died in, but she doesn’t know that it’s an insult to call a person an ass? Sometimes she was written to feel as though she died during the 1920s or even earlier, and then other times it felt like she had died recently. There wasn’t a lot of consistency with that, and the author should have made sure that she was writing a ghost from a time period that she understood.
Actually, I might have given this 3.5 books, but had to leave the rating at a solid 3 books. I, as a reader, shouldn’t have to work so hard to like characters and the plot, and I worked my ass off on this one. It took me two weeks to read, and that’s really rare for me. I usually devour a book in a few days tops. While the action started around page 80, it didn’t really start to get good until around 250, and that’s a big problem. I’ll probably read the next book just because I’m curious, but not because I liked the first.