When her parents decide they can no longer live in Nixon’s US, Bliss is shipped off to Atlanta to live with her grandmother while her parents flee to Canada in Bliss (2008) by Lauren Myracle. The year is 1969 and after spending most of her life living on a commune, or wherever else her parents decided to hang their hats, Bliss is ill-prepared for conventional life in a big city.
Bliss isn’t too worried when she starts at the prestigious Crestview High School though because she’s spent a lot of time watching TV. Surely The Andy Griffith Show will tell her everything she needs to know about life in the “civilized” world of non-hippies, right?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Real life in Atlanta is nothing life fake life in Mayberry. The slang is different, unspoken rules make no sense, and the de facto racism is painful to watch–even as a bystander. Then there’s the mysterious voice Bliss hears whenever she walks by Hamilton Hall. Is it a ghost? Can anyone else hear it? And, most troubling of all, why does the voice seem to be dripping blood with its every inflection?
Bliss tries to set these troubling thoughts aside as she focuses on making new friends. But the closer Bliss gets to her new classmates the more entangled she becomes in both the politics of Crestview and a more sinister campaign centered around the sinister voice from long ago.
Bliss is a prequel to Myracle’s earlier novel Rhymes With Witches which, I am told, ties back to the events related here. It is also one of the suspected reasons behind the rather open-ended conclusion of Bliss. (It was one of those “That’s it?” moments.)
Right until the ending Bliss was fraught with tension. The title on the cover is written in blood over a seemingly innocent picture made sinister through the contrast. The interior design of the book is equally fright-inducing. Chapters are separated with white-on-black text quotations from a variety of sources including The Andy Griffith Show and transcripts from the Charles Manson trials used to set the backdrop for the story. Excerpts from a mysterious journal whose pages are covered with blood up the sinister factor even more.
This is an interesting book in that it can appeal to a lot of people. There’s a bit of history, a bit of the supernatural, a little romance, some suspense, and even some mystery and horror. If that appeals, or if you just want to see how a book can drip blood, Bliss might be worth a gander.
Possible Pairings: Frost by Marianna Baer, Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley, Devilish by Maureen Johnson, Rhymes with Witches Lauren Myracle, The Andy Griffith Show (television series), The Craft (movie)