While I was at work the other day I was rehashing some of my recent reads in my head. One of the books was by an author that I had read several books by, but I had never heard of her before I found her books. That seems to be a prevalent theme in my reading, there are so many authors that it’s hard to keep them straight, but most of the posts and reviews I find myself reading in my spare time feature a lot of the same authors. It seems to be a hazard of reading Young Adult, or ever adult novels. People name drop authors like no ones business. So, to try an level the playing field a little, a post I’d like to start doing is something my coworker called an Author Audit, an appraisal of “the books” if you will, where I talk about an author’s work and how they stack up in the wild world of publications.
The first candidate: Katie AlenderAlen.
If you’re familiar with me and my taste in books, you know I have a certain affinity for what I fondly refer to as B grade novels. Similar to the straight to release movies and small company productions that we all secretly watch on the weekends, these are the types of novels that you read with no expectations, which is a completely freeing practice.
Alender seems to have cornered the B grade horror genre of YA. With titles such as The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, and Bad Girls Don’t Die she provides her reader with all the enjoyment of a cheesy gore flick with a witty direction. Anyone who watched gorefest films knows the drill; there’s murder, predictable plots, and there’s always a naked girl, if there’s a female character at all. Alender delivers all of this, sans the sexualized female character.
The great thing about her novels (I’ve read three, Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, and Famous Last Words) is that you get the gore fest, blood spurting, murders, intrigue, and a certain amount of suspense, with a capable and dynamic female lead. All of Alender’s protagonists are teenage girls who experience typical family, friend, and boy drama, but she crafts their stories in a way that makes her protagonists wholly enjoyable. My favorite is Collette from Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, a down on her luck socialite who goes on a school trip to Paris and discovers a murderous ghost as well as her own flaws. This recurring theme of murderous rampages showing young girls who they really are, flawed but capable young women, creates what I think we all wanted from Stephen King’s Carrie, a realistic representation of women in horror instead of a borderline straight male jerk off fantasy of how teenage girls interact with their peers and react to womanhood. Thanks for the effort, King, and Ima let you finish but Katie Alender actually knows what she’s doing.
While her writing stays simple and her books short (she is published by Scholastic/DisneyHyperion so give her a break), the characters leap easily off the page; and while they may seem flat and basic at first, Alender quickly allows them to dominate their stories, keeping with the crowd pleasing ghostly massacres that we all want form our shitty horror films.
So far (or as far as I know) Alender has six titles to her name, three of which are part of a trilogy. There is a seventh book, The Breaking Tide, that has been announced but not released. Apparently it’s as if The Shinning met Groundhog’s Day. Lit.
I’ve been asked before by some of my friends why I’ve eaten through so many of Alender’s books, and the honest answer would be the way she writers her teenager protagonists. They’re real, they’re dynamic, they’re strong, they’re flawed. That’s everything I want from my female characters. They fall in love, get their hearts broken, have solid friendships with other girls, solve murders, deals with parents, and find themselves through it all. Not once does Alender give you a female character that does’t undergo a massive character underhaul in the story, which is needed to create a compelling story for me. Honestly, let her write every script for the 700 terrible horror films that come out every decade and we’d see more female characters, better scripts, better stories, and more ghosts than we’d know what to do with. Her books a practically made with special effects, I can see the bloodshed now.
Have I sold them to you yet? Because honestly as many shitty, basic ass bestsellers I read and see recommended, I think a lot of the people reading them
should would take a break from them if they caught wind of some better, bloodier stories. If I have managed to perk your interest check out the full line up at retailers (be nice to the cashiers, give them a bogus email if they ask for one, we all have quotas to meet), or find them at the library. Grab a bag of chips and leave the night on readers, and don’t look too closely at the mirror when you pass by.
Find them on Goodreads