Friday, October 22, 2010

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Bleeding VioletI finished Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves (Simon & Schuster - Simon Pulse) the other night, and I have to be honest in thinking that I don't know what to think about it.

Hanna shows up on her mother's doorstep in Portero, Texas, not knowing if she killed her aunt before she came. She does know that she's, in her words, crazy, bipolar, manic-depressive. More than anything, she wants her mother to love her, to touch her with kindness, but Rosalee gives Hanna two weeks to fit in in Portero if she wants to stay, and that isn't guaranteeing love.

And it's tough to fit in in Portero. If Sunnydale is the Hellmouth, Portero is the rotting, gangrenous pustule on the Hellbutt. Newbies like Hanna aren't usually alive in a year's time. Not only are there monsters, some of which get hunted by Hanna's new boyfriend Wyatt, but it's hard to tell what Hanna sees and what she hallucinates. She's not afraid, though, and even death doesn't scare her enough to keep her from protecting her mother from the very worst monster in Portero.

I think that I saw a review of Bleeding Violet as "brutal," and that's a fair description. Hanna--and some of the other characters--seem to be on the verge of spinning out of control at any moment (I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Hanna's first cousin is Micah from Liar). Portero shares more with the Evil Dead franchise than it does with Harry Potter's wizarding world. There is violence, gore, horror. A lot of it. It's not limited to killing monsters, either, and the emotional tension in Hanna's relationships is very raw, reflecting how untraditional--some would say dysfunctional--those relationships are.

It's not a light, easy read, but I admire what the author did in creating a cohesive world and in creating a very, very nontraditional heroine. In particular, it's nice to see a heroine who is biracial; I also found it interesting that Hanna's mental illness is part of her strength, and that it's part of her identity separately as well. On top of that, she has a strong relationship, if a weird one, with both of her parents.

As with a lot of YA I've read recently, the first section of the novel is devoted to building the world and characters, and it's pretty late in the game before we know what the central plot question is, though some of that is due to book design--the square, sparse layout means that the book appears deceptively long. It's a fast read.

I read this book as a first-round judge for the Cybils Awards, which means that I may have received a review copy from the publisher (or not; I own a lot of the books in this category). I read some books nominated for the YA fantasy and science fiction category in 2010 before the nomination period, and may have already reviewed them or declined to make a public review; these books might not have a Cybils post tag. As a first-round judge, I was tasked with helping create a shortlist of books. My personal reviews do not reflect any actions or discussions of the judging committee.

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