Bliss by Lauren Myracle
Bliss is the new girl at Crestview Academy. Her hippie parents left her with her wealthy grandmother so they could head to Canada, where her father can avoid the draft. At fourteen, Bliss has never attended a real school and worries about fitting in with her classmates, particularly since Crestview is “the most prestigious private school in the South.”
Before it became a school, Crestview was a convent, and school legend has it that Hamilton Hall is haunted. Bliss can sense its ominous history and hear the voice of a spirit trying to persuade Bliss to do her bidding. Bliss is determined not to, but one of her classmates is obsessed with the death that occurred at Hamilton Hall and realizes that Bliss is the key she needs to gain the power she and the spirit both desire.
What makes Bliss work so well is the overall package. It’s not just Lauren Myracle‘s writing and the stunner of a climax, it’s also the design of the book (assuming it remains the same as the ARC I read). Each chapter is preceded by two-page spreads, either black pages with quotes in gray and white text or excerpts, sometimes longer than two pages, from the journal of the disturbed S.L.L., on lined pages and complete with blood spatters. The design also makes Bliss a much faster read than the length would seem to imply, so if a teen is intimidated by the size of Bliss, encourage them to read it anyway.
Because the story? So good! Bliss is likable, which is necessary for the story to work effectively, and she’s such a kind, innocent character that the events that occur become even creepier and more horrifying. The tension builds, slowly at first, as S.L.L’s journal gets more erratic and Bliss realizes how troubled her classmate is. As the story neared the end, I began to read faster, with equal parts anticipation and dread, wanting to know what would happen. I consider Bliss a horror novel, but it’s more subtle and more firmly rooted in, well, reality than some other YA horror titles out there (e.g., The Demonata, some early ’90s horror). I’m not sure it has enough outright thrills and chills to please diehard horror fans, since it takes a while before the horror really gets going, but Bliss has a lot of widespread appeal regardless.
Bliss will be published on September 23.