Alexis isn't thrilled with her life at home - her parents bicker a lot; her mother is working late hours, hoping for the promotion that has continually been denied her, and her sister is obsessed with her collection of creepy dolls. At school things are worse - her best friend moved away several years earlier, and she has managed to get on the bad side of many of the popular girls, who are snide and malicious. She has no real friends, but she does have her passion for photography.
Things go from bad to worse the day she and her little sister Kasey are in the basement, and she finds herself telling Kasey a story that is so vivid, it's like a movie playing in her mind. The story is disturbing, so much so that Alexis changes the ending. From that day, Kasey changes. She becomes secretive and moody - almost as though at times she's a different person altogether. When Megan, Alexis's nemesis at school, approaches her privately, saying she thinks Kasey is possessed and that she might be able to help, Alexis is suspicious and angry. But later, as her life spins out of control, she realizes that Megan might be her only hope.
For some reason I was under the impression when I opened this book that it was going to be a YA vampire story. I was not expecting a creepy, classic ghost story, but I was surprised and delighted to find one. The plot is fairly traditional, but the characters are well drawn and interesting, and the stereotypical cheerleaders vs. the outcasts element took an unexpected and welcome direction. Creepy dolls, ghosts out for vengeance, possession, secrets buried in the past - these are horror elements that give me delicious shivers when I read - particularly the creepy dolls. (My children find my fear of dolls hilarious - I refrain from telling them exactly what their own glassy-eyed spooky dolls might get up to in the middle of the night because I am a grownup. Kind of.) A few elements strained the suspension of my disbelief (such as the fact that they'd been living in that house for years but knew nothing of its history), but the story was such fun that I really did not mind. There are occasional flashes of humor that contrasted nicely against the dark storyline, and also a touch of romance. I very much enjoyed this spooky ghost story and its strong, engaging heroine.
Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender (Disney Hyperion Books, 2009)
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Bloggin' 'bout Books: "...although it keeps the spooky going strong, there's also a lot of levity in it. Mostly it's due to pink-haired Alexis, whose sarcasm and self-deprecating humor actually make this horror novel funny."
The Compulsive Reader: "Though the haunted house and possession stories have been done many times before, Alender's fresh slant on the topic will enthrall readers and leave them just a bit creeped out."
Karin's Book Nook: "There are several layers to the mystery and the author generates a completely creepy feeling throughout the entire book."