Sunday, May 27, 2012

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

"...And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all..."

In a far-off dystopian future, the world has been decimated by the Red Death. This contagious plague means certain death for those who contract the disease. Protection is available in the form of the masks, but (obviously evil) Prince Prospero sells them at such a price that only the rich can afford such a necessity. So the poor will eventually contract the disease and die, while the rich go about their lives, all safe and secure.

Araby is one such rich girl. She spends her nights at the Debauchery Club with her best friend April, looking to score drugs so that she can stop feeling for a while. Araby's father invented the masks, the masks that saved humanity. It was too late to save her twin brother Finn. Which is why Araby tries to forget, why she doesn't let herself kiss, date, or do anything Finn will never be able to do.

Araby becomes entangled in a plot by April and her brother Elliot to kill Prince Prospero, their uncle. She has to pose as Elliot's girlfriend. He's obviously unstable, and he constantly tells her how much he doesn't really like her. Honestly, he's a little hot anyways. Then there's sweet bartender/security guard of Debauchery Club, Will. He takes care of Araby, even when he thinks she's just another shallow club girl. He is working and sacrificing everything to take care of his younger brother and sister, saving up to buy them masks so they can finally attend school. Between the loose cannon bad boy and the devoted older brother, the choice should be obvious. Yet there are lots of twists in those relationships and throughout Masque of the Red Death.

It's about the rich versus the poor, the inhumanity of denying an essential for survival just to make a profit. It's about the tragedy of losing the person closest to you, which becomes even worse when we learn the details behind the event. It's about the Red Death, the bodies, so many bodies, in the streets and gathered in carts. I wasn't sure how Edgar Allen Poe's story would fare as a young adult novel, but I enjoyed this expansion of the story.

I received my copy of Masque of the Red Death from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperCollins. It's available now.

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