Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
This book took me quite a while to get through. The writing was decent enough and the story, at first, was interesting. Marie Antoinette taking revenge from beyond the grave for a mysterious purpose. Sounds good. However, most of the people decapitated are horrible people. Vain and selfish. Not that they deserve to be beheaded but the story certainly implies it.
Enter our ‘heroine’ Colette. Her parents have recently divorced due to her father going through a mid-life crisis and ditching them. Colette now lives with her brother and mother in a much smaller apartment, on a lesser income than before. Apparently the dad decided to nix child support. So, poor, poor Colette has had to stay in her private school via scholarship (and her brother volunteering to go to public school) which she would just die if either if her two uber-rich friends, Hannah and her faithful hanger-on, Pilar. She also has to shop at *gasp!* *horror* thrift shops and discount stores for clothing good enough for her friends and status.
To make Colette even more despicable (to me), her mother has been working overtime to pay for Colette’s class trip to Paris because she feels guilty about not having any extra money and to make up for having a smaller apartment than they used to. And what are Colette’s feelings about this? Well, glad you asked! She’s mostly thrilled at finding an antique key in a box of her grandmother’s old things that will go perfectly with her spring formal dress (that she’s hoping no one knows came from a thrift store and isn’t really designer vintage). Also, on the way to the airport to go on her fabulous Parisian adventure (which, I’ll remind you again, her mother worked her ass off to pay for) she’s working up the nerve to tell her mother that she’d rather spend the next two years in New York with her father. Because it’s New York and not crappy old Toledo, Ohio (no offense, her thoughts, not mine) and her awesome rich friends will be there. Ungrateful much?
Once on the plane her “friends” ditch her in coach while they’ve upgraded to first class. Once they arrive the real mystery begins. Spoilers from here on out but not too many because the plot is somewhat lacking.
And by lacking I mean that each murder gets about two-three pages tops. Enough for you to know these are snobby, bitchy people and that their ancestry has to do with Marie Antoinette. Colette, whom Parisians think she’s a real Frenchwoman (because she dresses low-key, I guess? I dunno.) is also descended from a French duchess who had ties to the Royal Family. Turns out her ancestor, along with the other people being killed off, belonged to The Order of the Key which had been formed originally to protect the Queen but in the end betrayed her to save their own necks, literally. And, of course, Colette’s ancestress was the biggest betrayer of them all because she was the Queen’s best and most trusted friend. All of this is dragged out over a book’s length of Colette hanging onto Hannah, meeting a boy named Jules and tentatively rekindling a friendship with an old friend named Audrey. Whom she spends most of the book acting friendly when she needs Audrey’s help, discarding her when she remembers that (horror of horrors) Audrey’s a loser who dresses how she wants and even makes fun of her hair. Nice, Colette.
There are a couple occasions where I seriously wanted to slap Colette. She offers to go shopping with Audrey when they return home and her immediate thought is “How do I get out of this?” Another is after a few days of Audrey helping her with research and other things Audrey tentatively begins talking about how they could hang out again and Colette basically says, “Sorry to give you the impression that I actually want to be your friend. I just needed help and now we’re done.” In Audrey’s words, Colette totally mean-girl’s her. Which is accurate. And when Colette desperately needs her help she actually offers a bribe. The bribe of hanging out with the “cool” people for once. Which Audrey shuts down immediately and just about laughs in Colette’s stupid face. Finally Colette tells her the truth and their friendship seems to grow from there.
As I said, the mystery really takes a back-burner to Colette’s ditherings about being the person she knows she could be and being the hanger-on of Hannah forever. Also, a tourism brochure’s guide to Paris (talk about wasted setting opportunity). yeah, and Miss French Colette? The same girl who has been dying for the trip for over a year now and has the itinerary down by heart? She has no idea what the Catacombs are. One of the most famous landmarks in Paris and she’s caught totally off-guard by them. Because I guess the author needed a manufactured tension moment so Colette is claustrophobic. At least she keeps it consistent throughout the book. Mainly it seems like a device to make her panicky where normal people would not be panicky and so she has to do something Brave! and Daring! later on. There’s also a romance (of course, I just thanked the gods of literature that it wasn’t a love triangle). With all the non-plot about Colette’s coolness/uncoolness measuring, the bland descriptions of Paris and the romance the actual murders get pushed far into the background until it’s time for Colette to face the ghost.
I will say she slightly redeems herself near the end but for me it was a case of too little, too late. Plus, it’s so fast as to be unrealistic.
If you can’t tell by now I didn’t like the main character, Colette. Now, that’s not exactly a prerequisite with me but Colette isn’t likable or sympathetic to me at all. The place descriptions were bland. I felt like any guidebook could give me the same info without all of Colette’s poor me’s added on. I think Audrey would have made a much more enjoyable protagonist. The romance was rather bland as well. As were the killings and haunting.
I guess if I had to sum it up then bland, peppered with doses of Colette’s “Woe is me, I’m poor” throughout would be it. Nothing special. The writing is serviceable but not much more.
Since I’m not the target age and audience for this book I may be judging it too harshly but I expect more from a YA reader’s intelligence than what this book serves up. I don’t read a ton of YA (unless it’s horror-centric like I hoped this book would be) but I’m sure there’s better fare out there than this.
Two Ravens out of Five