Bad Girls Don't Die
By Katie Alender
(Disney-Hyperion, Hardcover, 9781423108764, 352pp.)
Publication Date: April 10, 2009
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Alexis thought she led a typically dysfunctional high school existence. Dysfunctional like her parents' marriage; her doll-crazy twelve-year-old sister, Kasey; and even her own anti-social, anti-cheerleader attitude. When a family fight results in some tearful sisterly bonding, Alexis realizes that her life is creeping from dysfunction into danger. Kasey is acting stranger than ever: her blue eyes go green sometimes; she uses old-fashioned language; and she even loses track of chunks of time, claiming to know nothing about her strange behavior. Their old house is changing, too. Doors open and close by themselves; water boils on the unlit stove; and an unplugged air conditioner turns the house cold enough to see their breath in.
Alexis wants to think that it's all in her head, but soon, what she liked to think of as silly parlor tricks are becoming life-threatening--to her, her family, and to her budding relationship with the class president. Alexis knows she's the only person who can stop Kasey -- but what if that green-eyed girl isn't even Kasey anymore?
Katie Alender is a graduate of the Florida State University Film School and lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a producer/writer. When she's not writing novels or producing TV shows, she can usually be found in her sewing room, making things for her friends or her dog (or her friends' dogs). She also enjoys reading, eating delicious high-calorie foods, and hanging out with her husband, Chris, and her very spoiled Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Winston.
Bad Girls Don't Die is her first novel.
Visit her website and blog at www.katiealender.com.
In Alender's character-driven debut, outsider Alexis-who dyes her hair exotic colors, hates cheerleaders and sees the world through the lens of her camera-first suspects something's amiss when she and her younger sister, Kasey, notice light emanating from their antiquated house. Tension builds slowly as doll-obsessed Kasey starts acting more strangely than normal, the girls' father is hospitalized after a car accident and the house itself becomes increasingly temperamental (the air-conditioner seems determined to freeze them to death, and the girls are strangely drawn to the creepy basement). Meanwhile, Alexis's social life takes an unexpected turn via a budding romance with the class vice-president and a new confidante: a cheerleader with a clairvoyant bent. As Alexis's stubborn stereotypes disintegrate, so does her unwillingness to accept the possibility of unseen forces, and she addresses the change with wry humor ("What was this, Challenge Alexis's Long-Held Assumptions Day?"). While the true scares are relegated to a few ephemeral moments during the buildup of the haunting, and the ghost's vengeful motivations feel undernourished, fans of classic young adult ghost stories should welcome this solid offering.—PW
Alexis loves her little sister, Kasey, but she also worries that instead of being a normal thirteen-year-old Kasey has become a "neurotic, oversensitive, doll-obsessed mess." Alexis is an outsider herself, but she's okay with her outspoken, pink-haired, not-slotting-in-anywhere self, even if she is starting to think that she could fall for textbook-preppy Carter, who'd seem to be as far from her type as humanly possible. Soon, though, Kasey's behavior goes from troubling to frightening, possibly even murderous, but Kasey's parents are blind to the changes. With the help of Megan, a classmate and former enemy, Alexis begins to investigate the possibility that her little sister is possessed by an evil ghost haunting their house and using a doll to get to Kasey, but can Alexis save her little sister before the ghost brings about her threatened revenge? The book begins with promising spooky menace, and ghost-story aficionados will recognize the delicious classic tropes of the vengeful dead and old tragedies revenged upon descendents; Alexis' reconsideration of popular Megan adds an interesting dimension as well. As the action develops, though, there are too many plot points both in and out of the ghost story; the multifarious elements are crammed in and abruptly hauled on and offstage according to story need, and the story logic isn't always readily apparent. Mitchell's Shadow Summer (BCCB 2/09) is therefore a more reliably chilling ghostly read, but this may suffice to give haunt fans an enjoyable frisson.—BCCB
Although it begins like the average high school misfit story, Alender's novel quickly takes an unexpected turn. Alexis, a self-described anti-cheerleader, defiantly embraces her role as bad student and social outcast, skipping class and spending her time in the darkroom, until the increasingly odd behavior of her little sister, Kasey, draws her into a world of evil spirits and dangerous games. At first, inexplicable dreams and eerie balls of green light hovering around Alexis's house seem like fringe occurrences in a story otherwise concerned with family, friendship, and a tentative romance. But soon, bizarre happenings take over, and Alexis comes to realize that Kasey is demon-possessed and hell-bent on murder. It's difficult to reconcile a teen coming-of-age story with a ghost-populated murder mystery, and Alender succeeds somewhat awkwardly. However, Alexis's story is compelling, and her voice is funny and authentic despite the creepy situations in which she finds herself. A good additional purchase for girls who like to be scared a little but not too much. Emma Burkhart, Springside School, Philadelphia, PA—SLJ
A nasty ghost, a photography-savvy teen and her stressed, uncommunicative family form the backbone of this all-too-predictable, though at times engaging, mystery. Pink-haired high-school misfit Alexis has built up a shield of disdain to the point that she is essentially friendless. Her parents are so self-absorbed they haven't noticed that their younger daughter, Kasey, is exhibiting increasingly bizarre behavior, including an obsession with dolls that has alienated her peers. Worried that her sibling is going mad, Alexis is moved to accept the help of two unlikely candidates-an unflappable cutie who continues his pursuit of her despite her initial rebuff and a cheerleader who has recognized that Kasey's oddness is not mental illness, but a case of supernatural possession. Strong characterization will draw readers in. Despite their realistic shortcomings, both primary and secondary characters are unique and satisfyingly complex. The plotting, however, is less effective. A selection of horror tropes-from spooky dolls to small-town secrets-fails to come to life, and the final healing of rifts in the girls' family seems contrived.—Kirkus