Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

I can’t remember who recommended this book to me, but she (or he) was right: I enjoyed it. This young adult horror novel follows a teenager named Cas as he travels across the country slaying ghosts. He follows his contacts and leads to find ghosts that are actively killing living humans, and he uses a special knife to vanquish them, sending them to—well, wherever they are supposed to go next. Cas is following the path taken by his father, who was recently killed by a ghost or demon in Louisiana. Now, Cas and his mother (a “white witch”) head up north to take on a particularly troublesome ghost referred to as Anna Dressed in Blood.

All that is known about her is that she was killed the night of a dance about sixty years ago. Her throat was cut from ear to ear, and her white dress is now all bloody. She has been responsible for many murders, most of them classified as missing persons cases.

Cas is used to slaying ghosts, but he knows there’s something special about Anna. As he delves into her story, he learns he is correct: Anna’s case is a unique one. In fact, he finds himself liking Anna, even caring about her, and before long he doesn’t want to slay her.

I won’t give away any more of the book. I enjoyed the use of first-person, present tense. It fit the story well. I don’t always enjoy present tense, but in this case, it worked. Cas was a likeable character but not perfect. Since he travels around every few months/years, he never settles down into any high school, so he’s always doing things like cutting class or skipping school. His language is rough but not over-the-top. Some of the language is left for the reader to imagine, which I felt was appropriate. Sometimes books with excessive profanities turn me off (even though I teach in a high school and know how kids sound!). The characters Cas interacts with were all interesting, some easily hate-able.

The book is a little over 300 pages, but I devoured most of it during a single snow day. It’s a fast read for anyone who enjoys young adult and horror.