by Dawn Ius
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Genres: Young Adult
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
From acclaimed author Dawn Ius comes an edge-of-your-seat reimagining of one of the most chilling mysteries in modern history—Lizzie Borden.
Seventeen-year-old Lizzie Borden has never been kissed. Polite but painfully shy, Lizzie prefers to stay in the kitchen, where she can dream of becoming a chef and escape her reality. With tyrannical parents who force her to work at the family’s B&B and her blackout episodes—a medical condition that has plagued her since her first menstrual cycle—Lizzie longs for a life of freedom, the time and space to just figure out who she is and what she wants.
Enter the effervescent, unpredictable Bridget Sullivan. Bridget has joined the B&B’s staff as the new maid, and Lizzie is instantly drawn to her artistic style and free spirit—even her Star Wars obsession is kind of cute. The two of them forge bonds that quickly turn into something that’s maybe more than friendship.
But when her parents try to restrain Lizzie from living the life she wants, it sparks something in her that she can’t quite figure out. Her blackout episodes start getting worse, her instincts less and less reliable. Lizzie is angry, certainly, but she also feels like she’s going mad…
When I first heard there was a YA reimagining of the Lizzie Borden, I was so excited! Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
“What if my family is right? What if my madness can’t be controlled?”
“We’re not so different, Lizzie.”
My mouth opens in surprise. “How can you say that?”
“Because I love you,” she says, and a ghost of a smile curls up her lip. “And love is a kind of madness, isn’t it?”
Lizzie – Lizbeth – is the cook at her family’s B&B. Things are not well, though – her father and stepmother are verbally, emotionally and physically abusive, and Lizzie suffers from an issue where she passes out every month when she gets her period. Basically, her life sucks, and her only joys are cooking (she sort-of worships Emeril) and teaching at the Catholic church. The story is told in first-person POV, and Lizzie is the definition of an unreliable narrator. Since her sister Emma has left for college, things have been worse for Lizzie, but the arrival of the Star Wars-quoting new maid, Bridget, starts a new page in her life. Lizzie immediately falls in insta-love with Bridget, a world-traveling free spirit, basically everything Lizzie wishes she could be if she could get out from under her family’s thumb. But there are reasons she shouldn’t leave the B&B, good reasons that she hesitates to share with Bridget…
“My traitorous lip curls into a half smile. I push myself up onto my elbows with a grunt. Something inside of me aches. ‘Sure, and I’m Lady Báthory.’
Her head tilts toward the blood smear. ‘Maybe that’s me.’ She grins, and my stomach flips end over end. ‘I’m actually an old hag who keeps her youthful appearance by bathing in the blood of beautiful young women.'”
First off, the book is highly unsettling. It’s gory, and full of maggots, blood, and spiders. While there is some humor, it’s of the variety of the Lady Báthory joke above, grisly and weird. Besides the unreliable narrator aspect, there were some narrative quirks that got old after a few repetitions – the swipe, swipe, swipes, the tap, tap, taps. The pacing felt uneven, and I felt like the big plot twist was very obvious from the beginning. While I think the pacing could be a valid storytelling choice, it just didn’t work for me. I was, however, interested enough to keep reading until the end.
Overall, this was just not my cup of tea. I think someone who’s more into unreliable narrators, modern reimaginings of unsolved murderes, and doesn’t mind a lot of gore would enjoy this!