I’m pretty sure that the works of Edgar Allan Poe make for awesome source material as evidenced by Nevermore and NOW by Bethany Griffin in Masque Of The Red Death. It feels cliché to type this, but Masque Of The Red Death transported me to a place where fear of airborne pathogens rules the streets and there is a rather stark division between main character Araby Worth’s gilded world of privilege and the world of the underclass.
I feel a bit rah-rah about the books I’ve been reading lately. Y’all I am so very much a cheerleader for Masque Of The Red Death. It opens on a macabre note, with Araby and her BFF April (HOLLA CHARACTER WITH MY NAME) on the way to the debauchery club, the first image we are presented with is that of the corpse collectors. You see, Masque of the Red Death has one of my favorite things EVER, a plague and it’s very Bring Out Your Dead with the body count. So, anyways, the plot really kicks off when April disappears and Araby gets caught up trying to help her and oh yeah assisting in fomenting a rebellion.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Bethany Griffin’s world building. Her writing is lush without being purple and there is this constant current of fear. It is quite Gothic, I’d say, like I got the same feeling from Masque Of The Red Death that I did from Rebecca, that I just know something bad is going to go down. Anyways, Bethany Griffin builds a world that is claustrophobic and harsh. There’s so much fear involved: of outsiders, of disease, of the megalomaniac ruler who calls himself The Prince. Like, I had no trouble picturing the rich people towers, the castle, and the crowded, dirty town streets.
Straight up, there’s a love triangle in Masque Of The Red Death that I actually did not hate. The characters vying for Araby’s love and attention are not perfect and are deeply flawed. I love that. The two paramours, Will and Elliot, do some really scary, crappy things, but I don’t know, I guess this sounds bad, but I was able to forgive all that because the two felt real to me. And like, they are definitely battling inner demons and have really difficult choices to make, choices bigger than ‘to make out or not to make out’.
Frankly, I am team Araby. I love how Bethany Griffin constructed Araby’s privilege. We sort of see Araby revel in her privilege without any deep concern, walled off from caring about others by her grief for her brother. Then she slowly becomes aware of the circumstances of the under class. We see her grow from a self-centered, self- contained girl to one who knows she can’t sit idly by any more — not when so much is wrong with her world.
Friends, I can’t recommend this book, Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, enough. There’s some deep subtext in Masque of the Red Death that I’m still thinking about a month later. Yet, I realize not everyone will love Masque and that’s fine, we all read differently. You want something to analyze with your YA book club? Read this book. I am honestly looking forward to book two and what is definitely, I hope, the beginning of a bright career move for Bethany Griffin.
Disclosure: Received for review.