Book Review: Marie Antionette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender
This book was an interesting reminder of how important it is to READ THE WHOLE BOOK before you make a judgment. I almost didn’t finish this book. And, although I don’t think it is a great book by any means, it got better so it was an interesting experiment in reading.
Synopsis: Struggling with her dad’s sudden departure and her change in social class, Colette Iselin takes a class trip to France with her classmates. With a serial killer on the loose, Colette learns that her family may be connected to the carnage in ways she could never have imagined.
So in order for you to understand my thoughts on this book, we’re going to do the review in reverse. In the end, I give Marie Antionette, Serial Killer 2.5 out of 5 stars, which is a huge step up from the original DNF (did not finish) I was going to give it. The truth is, I can see some teen girls reading it, it’s a fluff, throwaway horror story for those who don’t want to be terrified and it even has a little message at the end about kindness. I think readers who want to dip their toes into horror but still be able to sleep at night will appreciate this book. It is reminiscent of some older Stine and Pike titles. I think that Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick addresses some of the same themes and issues regarding mean girls, popularity and materialism in a much more fun and successful way, but without the horror component. This could have been a glorious read, but in my opinion it failed to deliver. My teenage self, however, would have been perfectly satisfied. But let’s discuss more . . .
Why I Almost Didn’t Finish It
As I mentioned, the beginning of this book was a real slog for me. I usually read a book a day and it took me 5 to read this one. Some of the reasons were personal, others had to do with the writing.
1) It has some seriously heavy handed foreshadowing at the beginning of the book. There is a necklace – dun dun dun. Colette says time and time again how she hopes this trip will change. her. life. Then there was the number of times we had to establish that Colette is seriously claustrophobic. It’s like the author didn’t trust her readers – or herself really – to put the pieces of the puzzle together in natural ways. This was a real turn off for me.
2) Name and Price Dropping
Colette is besties with two name dropping, price quoting, high maintenance girls named Hannah and Pilar. Pilar and Colette is the wannabees, but Hannah is without a doubt the mean girl. She controls the shots and the other two cower in the power of her shadow. There is a lot of fashion name dropping and price quoting to help establish the wealth and influence of Hannah. It was, to me, tedious and, again, heavy handed.
3) Oh My Goodness I Hate Everyone
Honestly, this way the hardest part of the book for me personally. All of the main characters introduced are shallow, mean spirited, selfish. They are not people that I want to spend time with, so at one point I did just throw the book aside and read something else. But I hate leaving books unfinished and I came back to it. Colette slowly begins to grow and change, and Pilar does to some extent as well. For me, this is the only thing that slightly redeemed the book. It was nice to see Colette make some different choices for herself based on her experiences. She grew a backbone, she made better choices, she became someone I didn’t loathe and detest.
4) Not enough killing
Seriously, I am not a weird person. Well, maybe a little bit, but for a book called Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, there was very little serial killing taking place. And I, personally, was expecting a darker book. But more importantly, there wasn’t much tension in the story. The killings are all one offs, people that appear in the story simply to be killed. You have no reason to care. Then one person you know, but do not like, is killed and I just couldn’t muster up a reason to care but thought thank goodness because he was just another despicable character in the story. It is not until the almost end of the story that any real tension and danger for any of our main characters is introduced. With a title that include the term Serial Killer, you are expecting a darker book. This book was surprisingly not dark (which would probably make it a good choice for those who want to read light horror). So I would say the lack of tension is a writing issue, but the lighter tone is a personal preference.
5) Marie Antoinette?
I thought the idea of turning Marie Antoinette into a serial killer was awesome. This was on my must read list. First, it is not historical fiction, it is set in the modern day. Second, there is very little Marie Antionette in the story. And third, an author’s note at the end of the book basically states that the entire premise of what has caused Marie Antionette to become a serial killer is in fact completely false. Marie Antionette is simply a devise here, and I don’t know that she is used all that effectively.
Why I am Glad That I Did:
1) The French boy, Jules
Who doesn’t want to go to Paris and fall in love with a French boy? And this boy is such a great character: charming, kind, insightful and he tells Colette straight up that her friends suck. He was definitely needed in the story. If I was a teenage girl taking a school trip to France, I would not mind having Jules for my tour guide.
2) France itself
I did love hearing about the various places around France, the nighttime visit to the Eiffel Tower, and the claustrophic look at The Catacombs. It does feel like you are taking a little trip to France, which is a dream of mine. The depictions of France are the most successful part of the story and at times you almost feel like you are there.
3) The Reinvention of Colette
As I mentioned, Colette does change. She consciously chooses to live her life differently in part because of her relationship with Jules and because of what she learns about her family and what they did in service to the queen. Colette went from being someone I despised to someone I could respect. And in her character arch there are some good yet subtle lessons made about being yourself, being a good friend, and doing what counts in the moment that needs it.
There is one other character that serves as a breath of fresh air in this story: Audrey. Audrey is a nice girl who ends up buddied with Colette – you can’t go on a school trip without a buddy – and she makes several attempts to help Colette. She is smart, kind, and everything that our main characters are not. Thank goodness for her.
5) Timing is Everything
It’s coming out at the right time of year and teens will be asking for more horror books. I think it is an optional purpose, but I also think it will circulate.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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