Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Me on Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer

Title: Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
Author: Katie Alender
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press

Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She'll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family's French roots. But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette. Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger.

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is an entertaining journey across Paris, shining light on its famous landmarks, giving glimpses of a possible murderous ghost wandering along the cobbled streets. Both the city and the mystery keep the book exciting, but Colette's reliance on her shallow friends and their own terrible personalities bring everything down

Colette is in Paris to sight-see, to take in the history and the culture and the sensation of being the city. And she does, but she never expects to find herself involved in a string of murders. It's certainly something that would cause caution, being told right after landing in a foreign that young people are being murdered, their heads sliced from their bodies. As scared as Colette is when she sees the ghost of what looks to be Marie Antoinette following her, she's just as serious about looking back into the past to see what secrets were covered up during the Revolution.

The best part of the book is Paris itself, the history surrounding the city, the landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Palace at Versailles. The city's past is so well-known, a past glittering with royalty and drenched in suffering and blood. The sights and sounds of the European city come across so well on the page.

As I read on, I wondered what purpose Colette's friends served beyond filling the 'friend' role, because they don't seem like friends. Colette's using them to remember what her life used to be like before her parents split, when they had money and weren't living in a small apartment, but they're also using Colette. She needs them to make herself look good, and so she'll go along with almost any plan of theirs to party or sneak away from the tour. I wondered if her friends were supposed to look like modern-day versions of French aristocracy, the influential figures that wasted money on clothing, jewelry, and exotic food.

The city of Paris and the dangerous ghost story kept me reading, but I was constantly annoyed by Colette's vapid and self-centered friends. I thought this would be an interesting ghost story, and it was, but it also turns into more of a chance for Colette to 'learn the lesson of friendship,' that real friends wouldn't care about your wealth or status and that they would care about you for you. It felt a little more like a middle grade book issue than a young adult book issue, but I suppose figuring out who your true friends are happens at any age.

(I received an advance copy of this title from Scholastic Canada.)

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