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Reading Between Classes

A unique perspective on YA Literature from a junior high teacher. 

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Dance of the Red Death - Bethany Griffin This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: I was not nearly as enamored with this cover as I was with the first. I like the coloring and the font, but there is something about the background image that feels overly photoshopped.The Gist: Following the events of Masque of the Red Death, Araby Worth finds her life in ruin. She is fleeing the only home that she has ever known, torn between the love of two men who have both betrayed her and desperately seeking a cure to the disease created by her own father. Facing enemies on all sides, she becomes a beacon of hope for those struggling to survive in the city and find a cure for the plague that has devastated them. Review:Dance of the Red Death picks up where Masque of the Red Death left off. I am always interested by books that draw connections from the work of Edgar Allan Poe. In this case, Griffin has taken inspiration from The Mask of the Red Death. She does an excellent job of creating the gothic feel of which Poe was a master. I have read a number of novels where this is attempted, and this is the only series where I have seen it done successfully. At the beginning, I found it very difficult to remember what had happened in the last book. I could have used a little more re-cap on the action thus far and the cast of characters. I was several chapters in before I was able to recall who everyone was. I also found it annoying that there were two plagues to be dealt with. I could not, for the life of me, remember which plague brought which symptoms or why some people were dying in minutes, some in weeks and a few seemed to be able to go on living for years. I was very happy to watch the growth of Araby. She started out with far too much dependence on the other characters and I found it frustrating to see her sit back and follow the boys. However, she eventually started to strike out on her own and became a heroine in her own right. This is a far cry from the suicidal teen who longed only for a drug fueled escape that we met in the first novel. The two love interests aptly served their role though, there was far less heat between either of them and Araby as there was in the first novel. I was disappointed with the ineffective use of April as a character. In the previous book, she was such a loud and boisterous character who added moments to smile despite the dark circumstances. In this novel, however, we lose much of her spunk and, despite Araby's insistence to the contrary, I don't really feel this connection between the two characters. Also.... SPOILER ALERT!!..........Her death was completely underwhelming! Why wasn't Araby there?! Not only do we get no emotional pay-off from the heartbreaking death of one of the central characters, WE DON'T EVEN GET TO SEE IT! What gives Griffin?? Ok, spoiler done...........Prospero was an excellent villain. He was cruel, malicious and more than a touch psychotic. I loved the use of the themed party rooms and Araby's challenge there. I do wish this element had taken a little longer to explore, especially as this is where we get the closest connections to Poe's masterpiece. The other villain felt less threatening and almost unnecessary. So much so that, at the moment, I cannot even recall his name..... something with an M....... Either way, he was barely featured and did not make much impact to the story at all.The blurb for this novel describes it as a conclusion, but, to me, things feel a little unfinished. I do hope that this is incorrect and that we will get to see Araby and Will fighting Elliot for control of the city. Bethanny Griffin does a great job of presenting a novel that has a wonderful gothic feel, an action filled story and a romantic element, while still maintaining a level of appropriateness for teens. Overall, a few missteps, but a good book, nonetheless.Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 13 and upGender: FemaleSex: KissingViolence: Gunplay, Knifeplay, TortureInappropriate Language: NoneSubstance Use/Abuse: Drinking