Sometimes one sentence changes a book for me. When I read Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, and because I’m such a huge Stephen King fan, a particular sentence hit me like a dump truck of awesomeness:
“I rifle through the cabinet to chew some aspirin, a habit I picked up after reading Stephen King’s The Shining.”
This sentence really took Anna Dressed in Blood to a whole new level for me. I loved how it mentioned the literary work The Shining and not the screen version, since Kubrick’s Jack Torrence is sans chewing pills. And I started to think of this as much more than a young adult novel, since I doubt most of Blake’s target audience has read The Shining. I immediately had to return to the beginning and start the novel over again.
When I started round two of Anna Dressed in Blood I noticed even more references. Some carry through the entire story, while others are mentioned in passing. As a bona fide pop culture addict I searched this book for every bit of allusions and trivia I could find. There are references to Bret Easton Ellis’ work, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and an overall theme of Ghostbusters running throughout the book.
The story is great too. The protagonist Cas is a ghost killer. He travels the continent with his mother destroying the dead who wreak havoc on the living. He comes to a small town in Ontario where he meets a very special ghost. Anna is not just deadly (and the scenes where you see her take out some less-likeable characters are highly entertaining)—she is also lovely. The plot blends horror with romance in a way I had never seen before. Girl of Nightmares, the sequel, is just as entertaining and has even more suspense.
But it isn’t just the plot that makes Anna Dressed in Blood so good. It’s the quick characters and witty dialogue. I loved the way Cas was so level-headed about his strange life and occupation. Watching how he handled his feelings for Anna was heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. I cared about these characters from the beginning and through the end.
Anna Dressed in Blood really is an amazing story. It is a blend of horror and romance that transcends the young adult genre. There is an amazing plot, well-developed entertaining characters, and some very suspenseful scenes, but what makes this book stand out so much for me is Blake’s writing. The way she subtly (and sometimes obviously) references other works made reading Anna Dressed in Blood like an Easter egg hunt. If you’re going to read Blake’s work, I recommend reading this title twice. The first time for the story and the second to try and fish out as many pop culture and literary references as possible.
Shannon Stoker is the author of The Registry and its sequel, The Collection—available now from William Morrow. Shannon was born in Clawson, Michigan and raised in Elgin, Illinois. She currently lives in DeKalb, Illinois with her husband Andy and small dog Nucky. When she’s not writing Shannon enjoys watching an insane amount of television shows as well as horror movies.