“I say it is an onryuu, yet I feel no hate from her."
“An onryuu with a conscience, kami help us."
Shimatta! (That means shit in Japanese). God help us, this is supposed to be our terrifying heroine? Kuso yaro! Sou desu ne?! Ramen! *insert random-ass Japanese word here for authenticity* Sukiyaki! Hentai! Bukkakke! Hello Kitty!
This book will be scary, they said. A cross between Dexter and The Ring, they said. Not fucking likely.
This was how scary the book was for me.
Trust me, I'm just as disappointed as anyone. This book was incredibly dull. Sure, it features a scary girl with long hair ripped straight out of The Ring and The Grudge. Doesn't matter. It doesn't change the fact that this was a boring ass book with a main character who is completely unnecessary because she doesn't do a single fucking thing but obseeeeeeeeeeeerve. Whooooooooo. I'm gonna shit my pants. Not.
The book is dull, the plot is convenient, and ever so contrived. Ever so convenient. You're in Japan (sometimes). All the Japanese characters speak English, hoo-fucking-ray. Even the fucking temple miko, or shrine maiden, are college-educated and English-speaking. The main character is boring as fuck. The narrative style drove me nuts. The other main characters are dull as hell. Casper, the Friendly Ghost probably scared me more.
For a far superior YA horror novel, go read the most excellent Anna Dressed in Blood. Hell, take 2 hours of your time, go watch Ringu. Go watch the American version of The Ring. It will be two hours better spent than reading this book.
There is a ghost. Her name is Okiku. She is 300 years old. Okiku is supposed to haunt people. She is supposed to be a ghostly version of Dexter, wreaking vengeance upon wrongdoers. She does that roughly twice in the entire fucking book.
You know what she does most in this book? She watches.
- The dead children watch me as I watch him drive away.
- I watch him.
- I watch as the bully pushes him against a bathroom door.
- Some days I watch Callie. I follow her as she attends lectures, plays, tours.
- I watch the miko. There is great strength in her.
- I follow them into the car, where there is very little conversation.
- I follow him as he wanders the busy streets, leafing through magazines in quiet cafés, peering into store windows.
There is a damaged, tattooed young man named Tark who is damaged. Have I mentioned that he is damaged? He is damaged. He is hurt. Deeply wounded inside, of course.
And then there's his lovely 18-year old cousin, Callie. The most ponderous, caring, nondescript side character in the entire world. She shows that she's motherly. She is caring. She is gentle. Did I mention that she's caring? She cares a lot, maaaaaan. It's because her poor little cousin Tark is so damaged.
For some inexplicable fucking reason, Okiku chooses to (very benevolently haunt Tark and Callie. Did I say haunt? I mean observe. And watch. And smile. Cause Okiku doesn't do much more than that.
They go to Japan. They do Japanese things like eat ramen and visit Shinto shrines and learn about local ghost stories! They get scared. I fell asleep. The end.
This book didn't do a damn thing for me. Here is why.
1. The prose and the switching of narrative POVs. First person switch to 3rd person omniscient in one paragraph?! Without warning? Sure, why not. Why the fuck not. This book is supposed to scare me. I don't want none of your attempts of poetic prose and experimental writing.
There is a time and a place for strange, experimental stream-of-consciousness prose, more specifically, in the 7th level of hell and in Tahereh Mafi's novels. I don't fucking want it in my horror novel. I want to be scared. I don't fucking want your e.e. cummings shit when you're trying to fucking frighten me.
Some examples. Direct screenshots, because you can't get the full terrible effects unless you see it for yourself.
And in homage of the writing, here's my little ode to it.
Please. Please godpleaseplease please.
Why won't you make it stopstopstopstopstopSTOPSTOP.
And as for the switching of POVs, my god. We alternately read things narrated by the main character as "I." I this. I that.
And then for no fucking warning, it switches to omniscient. "The girl." "The woman." "The boy."
Pick one POV. Stick to it, for fuck's sakes.
2. The main character is about as frightening as my bunny statue. And she is roughly just as active. I'm seriously. The fucking scary LADY IN WHITE WITH HAIR ALL OVER HER FACE does nothing more than observe.
And be shy.
She's supposed to be a cross "between Dexter and The Ring. No. She is not Sadako. Not even close. The book could have been narrated from one omniscient point of view, because the main character in this book is that useless. She is a narrator, not a ghost.
She does nothing.
Her narration is part internal monologue, part impartial observation, and completely annoying because this batshit girl has a tendency to obsess with numbers. She counts everything.
(Four girls, five, six.)
They are blondes and redheads and brunettes. They are blue-eyed and dark-eyed and brown-eyed and green-eyed. They are pale and freckled, and dark and brown. They are six years old and eight years old and twelve years old and fifteen years old.
(Seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven.)
I'm sure that's meant to portray her insanity. It doesn't work. It feels forced. It gives off a sense of pretension. It annoys more than it is effective.
Again, an homage to the style of the book.
Ten. Seventy one. Ninety four. FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE.
Of me HATINGTHEBOOK.
3. The boy.
“I’m from Texas,” the boy lies. “Home to beloved exports like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, mad cow disease, and bullets. I collect mannequin legs and spider bites. A race of super-ferrets live inside my hair. They hate water so I shower with an umbrella. I eat bugs because I’m allergic to fruit. I wash my hands in the toilet because sinks are too mainstream. Anything else you want to know about me?”
Tarquin, "Tark." I'm supposed to like this pretentious little piece of shit?
He's 15. He's annnnnnnnnnngsty. He is so different, wah wah wah. He makes damned sure that everyone knows it too. Sure, I'm supposed to feel sorry for him. After all, his mom tried to kill him. But you know what, the fact is that he's so fucking annoying that I want to kill him myself. So there goes the whole sympathy bit. Nope. Do not want.
4. The characters
Sure, Okiku has an excuse for being fucking dull, she's dead. But what about the rest of the living? They're cardboard. A mannequin has more personality than Carly and Tark. They do things. That's it. They never grow. They get frightened, but not too much. They suffer sometimes, but one feels nothing for them. They go through a ghost story, without ever feeling like they are any more alive than the ghost which they see.
Dull. Dry. The humans in this book have as much personality as a desiccated corpse, and that corpse is probably more interesting to observe as it rots.