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Author: Bethany Griffin
Series: Masque of the Red Death
Publisher: Greenwillow, an imprint of HarperCollins
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
The world Araby lives in isn’t terribly difficult to imagine. She lives in a decaying city, surrounded by marshlands and full of crumbling buildings, remnants of a time before the plague hit. Crocodiles and plague-riddled bats are a real fear. The wealthy drive steam carriages and careen through the vestiges of streets that have long since seen better days, while the impoverished live on the other side of the city, covering their faces in cloth since they cannot afford the porcelain masks that the wealthy wear to hinder the contagion in the air. There will always be the haves and have-nots, and never is that more obvious than in times of despair and desolation.
Araby is ruined, tragic, and more than a smidge self-deprecating. But she is also moral and kind. Araby harbors insurmountable guilt over the death of her twin brother. To assuage this guilt, she demeans herself, along with her friend April, in the Debauchery District, where all manner of depravity can be found. There are sexual encounters in dark corners and casual drug use and underage drinking, but in the society remaining after the destruction caused by the plague, this doesn’t seem uncommon or even illegal, and so it seems appropriate, considering how the world has progressed thus far.
Despite her best efforts, and a vow to her dead brother, Araby finds herself the unlikely love interest of two very different boys. Differences notwithstanding, both boys have something to offer Araby. They’re not just pretty faces, vying for the attention of a beautiful girl. Elliott, although arrogant and of questionable motives, is not what I expected from a poetry-writing university guy. He shows Araby that she is strong and capable of making much-needed changes in their decaying world. And he wants her by his side so that they can enact these changes together. Will, on the other hand, is sweet and honorable and also not what I expected, considering he’s pretty much a tattooed bouncer at the club frequented by Araby and April in their quest to forget the world around them. It’s because of Will that Araby overcomes her survivor’s guilt and lives for her brother Finn instead of denying herself pleasures because of his death.
Both boys are clear about their feelings with Araby, but it takes Araby a lot longer to trust Elliott because of his questionable motives. The problem with this triangle is not that it exists; it’s that I liked both boys so much. Many times I switched teams in this one, only to be swayed to the other side again. I loved seeing how both sides lived, for Will lived on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak, and Elliott lived a spoiled life of decadence, much like the one Araby was accustomed to. My only regret is that it took Araby so long to realize she felt something more for Elliott, but honestly, I don’t think I could’ve trusted the guy with my heart either, especially when he says things like this:
“And I’m falling in love with you,” he whispers. “But I would throw you in the water and watch crocodiles tear you to bits, if I thought that doing so would accomplish my goals. Do. Not. Trust. Anyone. Especially me.”But even so, I think Elliott stole my heart. His brutal honesty won me over, I guess.
This book will definitely make it to my list of top reads this year. Between the gritty, desolate surroundings and the rich, lavish lifestyles and even the disparity between the characters, I could not put this book of contrasts down. It was such a strange, entrancing mix of everything I love to see – a dystopian society, steampunk and gothic elements, and a budding romance – and it all came together to produce this amazing novel. It’s absolutely one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I’m actually kind of scared to pick up another book so soon, for fear that nothing I read for awhile will compare.
Book-A-Likes: obviously Poe's version, Wither by Lauren Destefano, or Legend by Marie Lu