Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I enjoyed, but didn't LOVE, this book. The writing style isn't amazing, but the story is interesting enough to keep me reading. It was definitely written for teens, although the main characters act like they are older than they are. I didn't realize Araby was only 17 at first, she was acting like a 21-year-old.
This book is a steampunk-meets-post-apocalyptic/dystopian-future kind of thing. A plague has wiped out a huge number of the population, and it's still killing people daily. Infection is a risk if you don't wear a specially-made mask, invented by Araby's father. Once you breathe through it, it won't work on anyone else, so stealing one from a dead person does you no good.
Araby's twin brother died when she was younger, presumably from the infection (later you find out exactly how it happened), and she blames herself because he didn't want to try on the mask made for him, so she put it on and breathed through it. She makes a silly vow never to experience anything he would not get to experience. This makes her immediately ridiculous to me, but that's how the author wrote it, so that's how I'm going to proceed. I mean, she got to experience growing up, a great depression, having friends, and all sorts of things. But when it comes to boys and love and even sword-fighting, she doesn't want to do it because Finn will never get to. Whatever you say, Miss Araby.
But she's in love with Will, the bouncer at the club her friend April is always dragging her along to. She barely speaks to him at the club, so she knows nothing about him (not even his name at first), until she wakes up in his bed after passing out from a bad high. He "rescued" her, and instead of taking her to the hospital, he brings her home. There she meets his little brother and sister, whom he takes care of because their parents are dead. Neither of them have a mask, and Araby is instantly upset and determines that she is no longer suicidal and must get them masks. Believable, I guess, but it was a bit too quick for me.
Then she meets April's brother Elliott, who convinces her to act like they're madly in love and to join a resistance movement. He asks her to steal her father's blueprints for the mask so that production can begin in a separate warehouse where they can be handed out to the lower classes who can't afford the ones made by Prince Prospero (April and Elliott's uncle who supposedly murdered their father). Elliott wants revenge for the murder of his father, as well as to turn the city around and start to rebuild. Meanwhile, Elliott decides he's actually in love with Araby, and Araby, obviously, can't figure out how she feels about him compared to how she feels about Will. Love triangle, here we come.
The love interests aren't quite believable - Araby falls for Will but has never truly spoken to him aside from in the test room. He rescues her and brings her home with him, and suddenly she's hooked, but what does she really know about him? Next to nothing. Even by the end they're still practically strangers, they each know almost nothing except what happened to Araby's twin brother and what happened to Will's parents. And Elliott is practically abusive to her, and yet she still can't say "Oh I hate your guts you sociopathic moron!"
3/5 stars because I got through it quickly, it was interesting, and I want to read the next book. If the writing had been better and the characters more believable and less like "Oh hi, you're Will, I love you," it would have been 4 stars.
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