Between the fall of 2016 and the summer of 2017, I read a number of trashy YA novels for stress relief. Kale, My Ex, and Other Things To Toss in a Blender marked a breaking point for me; after reading that mess, I decided to stop altogether.
Before hitting my limit, I picked up a book called Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer at the Seattle Library. Right away I noticed similarities between the book cover and the film Marie Antoinette starring Kirsten Dunst; the publisher had gone to great lengths to mimic Sofia Coppola’s rock-and-roll palette.
Though the title seemed pretty self-explanatory, I scanned the book for more details.
This was the back cover:
This, I thought, looks AWFUL.
I checked it out immediately.
I should mention that I love serial killers. Not, like, in real life. And NOT the twist-ending-it-was-actually-a-demon kind. Serial killer literature – with actual human serial killers – is my ultimate guilty pleasure. The best books make me paranoid and antsy. The worst make me laugh. I almost like the second kind more – nothing like an unintentionally hilarious serial killer mystery to get me through the night!
I expected Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer to lean toward terrible. Sure enough, the book opened with Marie Antoinette’s ghost murdering a young girl!
Are you KIDDING!? I thought. She’s also an IMMORTAL GHOST!? Immortal ghost books form one of my favorite subsets of serial killer lit. I’ve had some hilarious times reading sexy Jack the Ripper novels.
The first few pages of this book had me cheering. I couldn’t wait to keep laughing.
Things did not proceed as I expected.
After the gruesome murder, the book introduced its protagonist, Colette.
Colette had befriended the popular crowd early in her high school career. She tried to maintain the illusion that her family was as rich as theirs.
Ugh. Really? CLASS DRAMA? GET BACK TO THE MURDER.
The book kept returning to Colette’s friendship with Alpha Bitch Hannah. Through reconciling with an old friend and working out her feelings with the popular betas, Colette realized how toxic her friendship with Hannah had become.
That really got to me.
When I picked up this book, I was in the process of ending a friendship. That phrase implies an active choice and a clean break when in reality there were multiple epiphanies and unacknowledged hurts. There wasn’t a clean mutual break. I didn’t write this person a Dear John letter about my need for independence. Through our interactions – and some of her inaction – I realized a person I’d invested a LOT of time and energy in did not care about me. At all.
I kept having moments while reading this book where I would go, “Colette, just dump her! Just dump- Oh…”
Hannah and Colette had a surprising number of positive interactions. Hannah would do something kind only to demean Colette a few pages later. Most of the time, Colette dismissed her own hurt feelings. She told her other friends some version of, “Nobody’s perfect. Everybody has flaws.”
“All people are flawed,” her friends agreed, “but you get to decide what you’ll put up with.”
I’ve forgotten almost every detail of the book but that one line.
The book goes even farther, extending the theme of toxic friendship to Marie Antoinette herself.
(This goes into spoiler territory. Ye be warned.)
The mysterious ghost turned out to be Marie Antoinette’s best friend, the one who led Marie and her family to be executed. In the book’s climax, Colette essentially acts as a corporeal mediator for a centuries-long ghostly dispute.
I wiped tears away as I read. Was I SERIOUSLY CRYING? Over a GHOST SERIAL KILLER NOVEL? WHAT WAS MY PROBLEM?
Colette put the ghosts to rest, ended her friendship with Hannah, and followed her tour group back to the States. I should mention Colette had a cute French love interest who helped her with her ghost quest. I wasn’t all that fond of him; Jules, the French tour guide, seemed like the focus group answer to “What do the teens like?”
I expected Colette and Jules to exchange lofty promises of fidelity over long distance.
Colette bid farewell to Jules, reflecting that their relationship, though temporary, was both valuable and worth remembering.
WHAT KIND OF MATURE NOVEL DID I JUST READ???