Title: Masque of the Red Death
Author: Bethany Griffin
Year Published: 2012
Synopsis: Everything is in ruins.
A devastating plague has decimated the population, and those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles around them.
So what does Araby Worth have to live for?
Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery makeup . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.
But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club, and Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.
And Araby may find not just something to live for, but something to fight for—no matter what it costs her.
Review: I honestly don't even know where to start with this book. I mean, I could tell you that this is a retelling of a classic Poe story set in a post-apocalyptic world where a plaque has devastated the world and continues to inflict the population. But it's so much more than that. Araby isn't your typical heroine, and her friends are not at all what they appear to be. In fact, you can't trust anyone because everyone has secrets.
And I think that's is a huge reason why this book was so good. You have to expect the unexpected, because there's no telling what Araby will find out about someone she thought she knew. There were so many twists and so many secrets that I was kept guessing the whole time. As soon as I thought I had someone figured out, there would be some new piece of information or they would do something totally unexpected. I loved that, and I thought Bethany did an excellent job in developing each and every one of her characters. They're all so multidimensional and dynamic. I also liked that there was a little bit of romance, but that it didn't overshadow the rest of the story. I can't decide who I want Araby to end up with, and I'm actually kind of excited that both boys have both redeeming and failing qualities.
Araby was especially interesting. She changes so much over the course of the book that it almost seems like she's a totally different person by the end. At first, she goes to the Debauchery Club to forget - she drinks and does drugs and does whatever else she can to forget that the world will never be the same and her twin brother is gone. But then, everything changes. She becomes stronger emotionally and begins to realize that what she thought she was doing for her brother is exactly the opposite of what he would want for her. She's flawed, but she wants to do what she can to help everyone else. I thought it was really nice to see a heroine who isn't a fighter from the get go, and I think it made her easier to relate to.
I really loved all of the references to Poe's short story. There are major references (like Prince Prospero and the Red Death) and more subtle ones. I loved how Prospero is so much like Poe's Prospero, but is still a new and exciting villain. And the way Griffin incorporates the masks and the Red Death is really well done too. I can't wait to read the next book to find out how she sneaks even more references in, but still keeps this story unique and her own.
I'm not really sure that there's even a category for this book. It's post-apocalyptic and I guess a little bit sci-fi with a dash of steampunk, but it's so unlike anything I've read that I just don't know where to place it. I think anyone who enjoyed Ann Aguirre's Enclave and Susan Dennard's Something Strange and Deadly would also really enjoy this novel. Also, fans of any post-apocalyptic YA and anyone who wants to see a fresh new take on Poe's The Masque of the Red Death would probably like this book. A 5/5!