If nothing else, Katie Alender’s Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer has one fabulous thing going for it: The best tagline EVER. I can’t read the words LET THEM EAT CAKE…AND DIE! without snickering. Happily, though, it’s super-fun beyond the tagline as well. Not that I’d have expected otherwise from Alender, whose supremely creepy Bad Girls Don’t Die* is YA’s answer to Mary Downing Hahn’s Wait Till Helen Comes.
About a year ago, 16-year-old Colette Iselin's life took a turn when her father suddenly abandoned the family, requiring the remaining members—Colette, her younger brother, and their mother—to drastically change their lifestyle. They moved to a tiny apartment, her mother got a job at the mall, and Colette now attends Saint Margaret's Academy as a scholarship student.
Despite the difficult financial situation, her mother was able to squirrel away enough money to send Colette on a class trip to Paris, where she’ll be rooming with her two best friends…who she still hasn’t told about her new economic status. Before they even check in at their hotel, though, they hear some disturbing news: There’s a serial killer in town. A serial killer who’s decapitating the young, the beautiful, the privileged…and although she doesn’t know it yet, through no fault of her own, Colette is about to become one of the killer’s next targets.
Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is a hugely entertaining mash-up of genres: chick-lit and ghost story, mean girl drama and romance, travelogue and coming-of-age. It’s light and frothy and fun, it’s full of straight-out-of-a-teen-slasher-movie scenes, but it avoids being forgettable or vapid since it’s grounded by the following elements:
Colette. She is a HUGE pill at the beginning of the book: self-absorbed, lacking in empathy, spineless and devoid of appreciation for her mother’s various sacrifices. She makes choices that will make many readers want to shake her, but those choices are both believable and in character. As the book goes on, as she has to worry about something far more life-threatening than the disapproval of her “friend” Hannah, her priorities begin to change, she stops being a doormat, starts to realize that she, herself, is kind of a jerk, and actively works to change her own behavior. Good for Alender for taking a chance on a semi-unlikable heroine: It’s something I don’t see all that often, and finding a good balance between not-very-nice and still-sympathetic is even rarer.
Hannah. She’s the Queen Bee, and if Colette is “kind of a jerk,” then Hannah is a raving bitch. She’s also very charismatic, and can be charming, witty and generous, and so it’s not all that hard to understand why Colette and Pilar have put up with her as long as they have. Well, maybe that’s pushing it: At times it’s understandable.
The romance. It’s actually only a secondary thread, and not at all in the forefront. Even better, it’s not portrayed as a Love Eternal, or even as a relationship that will be pursued beyond Colette’s week in Paris. It’s friendly and comfortable, rather than Epic. Which is so refreshing.
Solid across the board, but now I need a good spooky read for Halloween. Recommendations?
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.