Title: Anna Dressed in Blood
Publisher: TOR Teen
Blurb: Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: he kills the dead. So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder 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 peksy 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 the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal burder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping 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. And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.
This book is totally NOT what I expected it to be. I was prepared for a brutal meeting of two forces contained in Cas and Anna, the latter one being absolutely vengeful and full of agony about the way she was forced to leave the world of the living and Cas being able to get into her shell somehow... well, something like that. Some of this is hinted in the story but to no extend in the way I imagined it to be. It is, after all, a YA novel.
The main character, Cas, reeeeally annoyed me at the beginning of the book - and I have no idea why because I am pretty fond of him at the end. Perhaps it's because he chucks his leave-me-it's-my-business attitude and learns to depend on people... or perhaps I sympathise with him because of all the shit he's been through and encounters within the book. His sarcastic comments did their bit, too, I think - he can be witty if he wants to.
Anna on the other hand is a character you have to love from the first meeting - although I imagined her in a totally different way I love her proud attitude and her struggling against the need to chop everyone to pieces who sets foot over her threshold. Her tragic history really moved me and the twists and turns in her past were totally unexpected. I can't belive her being so calm after reliving the most horrifying moments of her life though.
I also thought the way she and Cas began their bonding quite unauthentic. They just met the other night (in which she killed someone and nearly got him, too) and now they're talking family tragedies and woe-is-me-I'm-so-lonely? If the story would have been a tad longer I think this relationship would have been beautifully realistic, even if we're talking about a ghost and a hunter.
The other two character's who appear regularly are pretty much the stereotyped sidekicks: The geeky guy who starts out weak and busts his own limits and the high school beauty who discovers her courage and realizes that fame and looks are not everything to look for in her life. We all know those two end up together. Then there's the creepy voodoo grandfather, the fragile mother and the school bullies - not the biggest surprises in my opinion.
The whole story kind of reminds me of "Supernatural", probably just because Cas is chasing ghosts, but also because there's this big mean fellow who killed his dad and now he wants revenge following in his father's footsteps. And maybe because this big mean fellow also uses Cas to get stronger in a way. I didn't expect the twist at the end of the story in spite of being extremely cautious of the cat and its obsession with the trapdoor to the attic: I saw something coming from the very beginning, but I didn't think it would be THAT something.
The overall building of the tension was extremely unsatisfactory in my opinion though, because it only happens so late in the story. I would have enjoyed it far earlier, perhaps even while meeting Anna and getting to know her, but that would mean altering the whole relationship-building-thingy again and I've already commented on that.
As you probably noticed by now there's a whole lot I have to criticize about the plot and the characters so I'm extremely astonished to say that I really enjoyed reading this book. Although I kept thinking "This is wrong...", "Why does he do that?" and "What the hell?!" all the time I couldn't put it down - I kept carrying it in my hand through my flat and even cooked while reading it. So I'm actually redommending this book to you..... for a reason I can't even explain to myself. But I know that my first amazon order in august will involve the sequel, Girl of Nightmares, because I REALLY want to know what happens to Anna.