Judging the book by the title alone is pretty misleading with the volume of vampire and werewolf novels out there (which is all the rage after the Twilight saga boom). Thankfully, this young adult novel by Blue is for Nightmares author Laurie Faria Stolarz has nothing to do with monsters and supernatural entities who feed on blood or human flesh but rather just tells the story of 10 teenagers whose lives intersect at some point in the course of the 240-page novel.
Bleed opens with the story of Nicole, a goody-two-shoes girl-next-door type who has liked Sean O’ Connel since grade school. Unfortunately, her best friend Kelly nabs her dream guy from right under her nose and dates him because he just happens to be nice enough to have around, all the while she writes letters and has a secret affair with convicted murderer Robby Mardonia, who spends over five years in prison for killing his girlfriend Melanie. Ginger, on the other hand, hates Kelly with a vengeance for bullying and humiliating her in school in front of her crush. She vows to get revenge by using information she gets from Joy, a freckle faced ugly duckling who hates boys, especially Danny “Peanut Breath” Winslow. Meanwhile, the rebellious Maria tries to deal with her own demons when she comes across the psychic Mearl, whose need to establish roots bring her to Derek LaPointe, Kelly’s ex. Amid all the chaos is 11-year-old Sadie, who is all but starved by her own mother just to reach a certain weight.
Bleed is a collection of 10 short stories about teenagers who are all dealing with their own problems, some of them being each other. I must commend Stolarz for her excellent writing, which brought an edge to the otherwise generic dilemmas of the main characters in the book. I had a couple of favorite characters who evolved from the beginning of the book until its last page as the stories progressed and more events unfolded (This all happened in one day). I liked Nicole and Sadie the most because they seemed the most vulnerable of all the characters, yet they were the most genuine. I liked the ending too — how the story came full circle — but it took a good long while to get there.
The thing I had a problem with perhaps was the number of stories to that needed to be told. I felt that some of the characters were not essential to the story — Joy, Derek and Mearl, are those who come to mind because they did not really contribute to the whole plot. They stuck out like sore thumbs in an otherwise fluid pattern. I thought that if Derek was only mentioned as Kelly’s ex, it would have sufficed, but having to learn about his escapades with Mearl sort of made no sense to the entirety. If their stories were left off, I suppose, it would not have hurt the novel at all. I think the pages would have been used better to flesh out the stories of some of the more important characters.
I guess what I was missing from the book was the background that typically established a reader’s relationship with the characters. The stories simply focused on the present (and brief flashbacks) so motivations behind their actions were a bit murky. The book was actually a good set up for a teen slasher lit but I was a bit disappointed that their actions held very little consequence so it really just stayed at one level throughout the novel. It had no exceptional high points or low points that stood out, although some of the things that happen actually appeals to one’s sympathies.
What the stories did have, were a lot of open endings that leaves the readers to conclude however they want. And since this book revolves around the events that happened in one day, it makes a whole lot of sense. The downside to this though, is that it leaves readers with a feeling that the book is still missing something essential — that exclamation point that makes it extraordinary.
While Bleed may not appeal to everyone’s tastes, it is not a bad read. I’ve been wanting to read Stolarz’s standalone work before I dived in to check out the Blue is for Nightmares set and I should say, this YA novel passes muster.