Alexis is the outcast. At school, she doesn’t even fit in with the outcasts themselves, with their surprisingly cliquish attitude that’s really no better than the hated cheerleaders. At home, she is ignored as every positive thought seems to be saved for her little sister, Kasey. And Kasey herself is a little more than strange: rumors have begun spreading about how the doll-crazy girl has finally cracked. Alexis’ first instinct is to deny everything, but then Kasey’s quirky behaviors begin to border on creepy. As Alexis begins tries to work out what exactly is going on, she finds herself dragging in more people than just her family. Even if they’re not really friends, it seems like there might be people willing to help her. But then again, that might not be a good thing.
I inhaled this book. If I didn’t inhale it, then I certainly devoured it; it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to devote my attention to a book so completely. So I think I should say now that this was how much I loved this one. I couldn’t put it down. Post-impressions aside, my first impression of Katie Alender’s debut novel, even without a friend’s recommendation, was that this was going to be a creepy book. And creepy it was, from Kasey’s initial bizarre habits to her more threatening actions.
I did get frustrated at Alexis from time to time, when she didn’t see what appeared to be directly in front of her. She had appeared to be so smart--how could she miss that? But other than that, I found her to be a very identifiable and very real character. Her narration, too, was easy to follow; in a way, I think seeing things from her point of view made the situation especially creepy. The way she noticed little things--normal things, to her--kind of freaked me out: things like Kasey’s obsession with dolls and her odd nervous behaviors. Alexis’ sanity contrasted sharply with Kasey’s insanity, making Kasey’s new behaviors stand out even more against the supposed normalcy of her life.
In the middle of the book, I noticed several things. First, some Alexis’ actions may seem slightly comical in hindsight, due to her sarcastic attitude, but they certainly seemed very real and serious at the time. I found her to be a very strong, independent person, made all the more real by the fact that she had so many flaws. She kept making so many mistakes, kept regretting so many things, was so suspicious of Megan--she began to be sympathetic in the extreme, to the point where the entire circumstance seemed as if it could be all too real. Second, when I looked back to check, I found that there were no swear words. This is probably one of the first books I’ve read with the latter occurrence, especially seeing as it takes place when the main character is in high school. I don’t know exactly what difference it makes, but I fully enjoyed reading a book with no swear words. Somehow it made the whole book all the more powerful, from Alexis’ situation at school to her increasingly dangerous situation at home.
Would I read it again? Certainly. Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Just make sure you know it’s not exactly something to be reading right before bed.
Notes: Bad Girls Don’t Die is Katie Alender’s debut novel, and is the first in a trilogy. It was first published in 2009 by Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group. The version I read was paperback, published by Scholastic by arrangement with Hyperion Books for Children. Check out Katie Alender's website here.
Young adult horror, supernatural and mystery fiction (though some places have it marked as children’s), 346 pages, first person point of view
Topics: Identity, family
Publisher’s age recommendation: 12+ (I’ve also seen it as 11-13)
Warnings: Some violence related to paranormal events, accompanied by strong suspense. Direct description of possession.