Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 454
Date Published: January 2010
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Purchased using a gift card
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book description (from the publisher):
Love can be a dangerous thing....
Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pills, and a closet stuffed with frilly, violet dresses, Hanna's tired of being the outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas in search of a new home.
But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul. Good thing for Hanna, she's far from normal. As this crazy girl meets an even crazier town, only two things are certain: Anything can happen and no one is safe.

Whew! That was one crazy ride. I think that's why it's taken me so long to sit down and write a review of it. When I was reading Bleeding Violet I was totally immersed into the bizarre world of Portero and couldn't put it down. But at the same time, I didn't quite know what to make of it, either.

The main character, Hanna, is the main reason why I spent much of the book unsure of what was real and what was unreal in this fantasy world. Hanna, you see, is mentally ill. She takes medication to help keep the hallucinations at bay and, especially at first, when things started getting weird in Portero I wasn't sure whether it was all in her head or if it was actually happening. Once I decided to go with the idea that the crazy stuff was really happening, I started enjoying the story more. Portero turns out to be a pretty whacked-out fantasy world with really creepy elements to it. The people who live there have to be careful not to be killed by the frightening creatures that roam the town at night (and during the day for that matter).

The beauty of the town of Portero is that it is just as "crazy" as Hanna is. She didn't fit in at any of the places she had lived in the past, but in Portero she seems to be so much more comfortable in her own skin and accepted for who she is. I never quite knew whether to believe Hanna or not throughout the book. At times she seemed to hide information that would come out later. Add that to the fact that I spent most of the book wondering if she was imagining everything and Hanna basically became an unreliable narrator. It makes for an interesting and gripping narrative.

Another aspect of the story is more universal than the fantasy elements and the mental illness. Underneath it all Bleeding Violet explores the mother-daughter relationship from a unique point of view. Hanna had never met her mother before running away to live with her at the beginning of the book. She had a burning desire to be loved by her mother, no matter how mean she was or how much she claimed she didn't want Hanna around. Over time they get to know and appreciate each other, quite a feat in the midst of everything else going on in the story.

Bleeding Violet is very, very different from my usual reading choices. And even though it took me pretty far out of my usual comfort zone (warning: the book is violent, bloody, dark, and contains sex and a suicide attempt), I was riveted by it. Ms. Reeves kept me guessing with every page. I believe I will probably pick up a copy of her second book, A Slice of Cherry, which is not a sequel to this book but is also set in Portero. I guess I haven't had enough of the weirdness of this town yet. Thank you to Ari at Reading in Color, whose enthusiastic review put this book on my radar.

Related Linkage:
Reading Challenges: POC Reading Challenge, TwentyEleven Challenge (Bad Bloggers), Speculative Fiction Challenge


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