Today Ari, Edi, and Doret are hosting an African American Read In, discussing Bleeding Violet, by Dia Reeves (2010, Simon Pulse, YA, 454 pages). I'd been meaning to read this one for ages, so I was glad of the push to finally do so!
One dark night, Hanna, accompanied by the ghost of her dead father, shows up at her mother's door in a small town in Texas, having just brained her aunt with a rolling pin. Hanna has never met her mother before, and showing up with her aunt's blood on her hands isn't the best way to start a new relationship, especially since it's one her mother doesn't want.
(If you ask me, it's not the best way to start a relationship with the reader, either, but Hanna grew on me--she's insane (literally), smart-assed, pushy, and needy, but still a character to cheer for).
Yes, Hanna is nuts, less so when she takes her meds. But soon she finds out that this small Texas town is even more so, it being the sort of place where hideously dark and deadly monstrous beings (and some that aren't deadly but just gross) beset the townsfolk on all sides. Some of the townsfolk, including one particularly cute high school boy, Wyatt, are part of an order of safekeeping killers of the bad things, a gang of protectors for whom "mercy" is a foreign concept (they are serious slayers).
Hanna turns out to fit right in in the madness of her new home, but it's a place in her mother's heart that she really craves. And there are some serious stumbling blocks, both of supernatural and more generically human, standing in the way.
There are no Rainbow Unicorns in this book. There's bad language, nasty stuff (I don't think I'd ever be able to slice strips of flesh off the leg of my boyfriend's father to throw to the monster trying to eat him, even if this ultimately is a successful tactic), and there's quite a bit of sex, in bathroom, bedroom, and back of car.
And that's not the sort of book I generally like. Yet somehow I did like this one! It took me a few false starts, but once I was past page 100 I was hooked.
There is humor (I laughed out loud several times), and there's a huge energy in Reeves' portrayal of this seriously messed up town. Her wild and wacky imagination, her over the top strange people and circumstances enchanted me in a blood soaked kind of way (although I could have used less blood. I think about half as much blood would have been plenty--it seemed like the second half of the book, ever other page there was blood or wounds or what have you. Sometimes less blood is more). The story also made Sense--there was a logical progression to it all that allowed me to accept the whacky-ness.
Further depth to the story comes from the fact that Hanna is half black, and half Finnish. Growing up as a black kid in Finland with a white dad didn't exactly give her a confident sense of her identity; now, with her sexy mom in Texas (whom she strongly resembles) she has a chance to try a new identity.
But most importantly, in terms of me ultimately enjoying the book (which is an important aspect of any story), Hanna's a character that one (ie me) with whom one can make an emotional connection. Her relationship with her mother is painful, but it's rewarding to watch the two very similar personalities warming to each other. On the other hand, her relationship with Wyatt was interesting to read about, but didn't move me particularly.
In short--a book I enjoyed more than I think I really should have, knowing my reading tastes as I do, which is a credit to Reeves' snappy prose!
However, I am left with a burning question, that happily for me is one on the table for today's discussion--what is up with the swans?
Ari has the discussion up at her blog, if you want to stop by!