Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Bliss


It's 1969 Atlanta, and Bliss Inthemorningdew (yes that is her name) has just been dropped off by her hippie parents at her grandmother's place. Her folks have just left the commune and are heading to Canada, and Bliss' world is about to change.

Her grandmother is a true Southern lady, and quickly enrolls Bliss in the tony Crestview private school. Bliss is excited about actually going to a real school, but she is keeping her friend from the commune Flying V's warning about mean girls in the back of her mind. (Flying V has a gift of sight, and Bliss has a bit of it herself).

Bliss is thrown for a loop when her peer mentor Sarah Lynn ditches her. Luckily Thelma has decided to take Bliss under her wing and she and friends Jolene and Deedee school Bliss in the ways of not only Crestview, but life in Atlanta off the commune.

Unfortunately, when Flying V's warning seems to come into play, and Bliss witnesses some cruelty between classmates, Bliss ends up befriending Sandy. Sandy who the other kids make fun of because she's clumsy, she smells, and well, she's Sandy.

But Bliss feels good about being friends with Sandy. At first. They talk about conformity, power and the Manson Family murder trial. But Sandy is really needy, and it's draining spending time with her. Bliss would rather be with Thelma, Deedee and Jolene, not to mention super cute Mitchell.

What will happen when Sandy gets mixed up in a quest for power that involves the supernatural? Can Bliss disentangle herself from this girl who is set on revenge?

Lauren Myracle has written a thrilling page turner reminiscent of Nixon and Duncan. It's perfectly paced and will keep readers wanting more. Chapters are interspersed with journal pages which are border line terrifying when one thinks about the implications of animal torture and the dark arts.

Bliss is not only a scary thriller. The setting of late 1960s Atlanta allows for some frank discussions of race and the nature of racism. From the token black student at Crestview, to the Klan daddies, to teachers feeling free to use the "N" word in their classrooms, Bliss will have readers chewing on some big ideas as well.

2 comments:

rebecca said...

nitpicking for curiosity's sake: it's 1969--and it sounds like Bliss is older-school-aged... It seems unlikely to me that hippie-parents would have come up with a name like "Bliss Inthemorningdew" pre-1968 ...unless the commune had some wild re-naming ceremony maybe? I don't even know that hippies really existed in the late 50s/early 60s when Bliss would have to have been born/named by her parents.

as the person who's read the book, what say you?
is it plausible on its own? or
do we give it a nod just because (1) the name is fun/ny and (2) we all would rather the book be set in 1969, for its poetic weight (and social issues coming to a head), rather than the more plausible (less poetic, sort of apatheitc) mid-70s?

Stacy Dillon said...

I think that I overlooked this bit because there are other ways around it that could be left unsaid. Maybe Bliss and her parents moved to the commune (we know she wasn't born there) later on and renamed themselves...etc. The author does state that she compresses the time period of the Tate-LaBianca murder trial "to be a backdrop for the drama playing out in Bliss's own life" (end note).
The contrast that Bliss sees between the commune and life in a private school is stark and I think it makes getting some of the issues into the book more readable to today's teens.
Interesting question!