Young Adult Book Review: 'Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer' by Katie Alender
Point (Scholastic), 2013
I am not generally a big fan of young adult suspense or murder mysteries, but with a title like Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, I had to read this book.
Whereas the story that I reviewed last week started off well, but disappointed in the end, this novel opens with an incredibly cheesy three-page scene (written in italics) in which a woman "wearing a long pale-pink dress with a wide-open lace-trimmed collar" (whom we understand from the title to be Marie Antoinette) appears in the dressing room of a snobbish and vain teenage Parisian model, causing the mirror behind her to shatter, sending a shard flying towards her, "And then her head fell off her body."
I kid you not.
Luckily, most of the story is not quite so far-fetched. The protagonist is a private high school student named Collette Iselin, whose parents have recently divorced, forcing her mother to find retail work and her family to move into a small apartment just when Collette becomes friends with Hannah and Pilar, two of the wealthiest (and most glamorous) girls in the school.
Collette is too ashamed to reveal her financial situation to her new friends, so when her mother manages to scrimp and save enough for her to attend the school field trip to Paris, she purchases her clothes for the trip at thrift stores and turns down her friends' invitations to eat out in favor of taking the pre-paid meals that come with the trip in the hotel cafeteria.
When they arrive in France, Hannah and Pilar are more interested in socializing than learning about French history and Collette finds herself spending more time with her unsophisticated (but smart and friendly) classmate Audrey, and Jules, their college-aged French tour guide.
When she finds out about a series of murders of the city's rich and famous youth, Collette teams up with Audrey and Jules (who Collette has developed a romantic interest in) to discover that all of the teens that have been killed have an historic family connection to Marie Antoinette... as does Collette herself!
You can see where this is going.
Surprisingly, Alender manages to pull all of the loose ends together in such a way that there does appear to be a plausible explanation for the ghost of Marie Antoinette to be targeting the youth of the French bourgeoisie. And while this story perpetuates many of the same stereotypes about class that were presented in Mojo by Tim Tharp, teens will be drawn to the sophisticated backdrop of Paris, the glamor of Collette's friends (and the murder victims), the romance between Collette and Jules, and the mystery of the serial murders. So there's plenty here to keep young adults reading, which is what really matters in the end.
Katie Alender is the author of several novels for young adults. A graduate of the Florida State University Film School, she now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her daughter. She enjoys reading, sewing, and eating delicious, high-calorie foods. Visit her website at www.katiealender.com.
Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at reneesreads.com.