Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
(Synopsis from Goodreads)
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.
"Everything I want to talk about I can't say to them. It feels so separate, like I've touched something that's taken the color out of me. Or maybe I'm in color now and they're in black and white...We're in on the secret, aren't we Cas? And it's taking us out of the world." (Carmel speaking to Cas)
I put this quote at the top of my review because I feel like, even though its another character who is speaking, it perfectly describes the way Cas feels about his life. Cas is one of the best lead characters I have ever read in a YA book, and certainly my favorite male narrator (not that I've read that many). Blake wrote him as a believable teenage boy who has been spending most of his teen years moving from place to place, avoiding connections and relationships, and...oh yeah...killing ghosts. He is smart, sarcastic, and good at what he does. And he does it alone. So when this particular 'job' gets complicated and tangles Cas up in a group of local teenagers he finds himself at a total loss. Friends? Those just get in the way.
And what job is it that has caused Cas these complications? Anna. Cas travels to a small town in Canada to track down a ghost called Anna Dressed in Blood. What he finds is the terrifying ghost of a girl who is trapped in her house and who kills anyone who enters. Cas finds himself drawn to Anna for unexplainable reasons. Blake does not half-ass Anna in any way. She is scary and strong and violent. I loved that Blake let us see so many sides of Anna. I loved her to pieces, even though her opening scene in the book involves words like 'screaming', 'twisting', 'bleeding', 'tearing', and 'corpse'. Isn't that crazy? How does Kendare Blake make us love Anna so much?
I loved everything about this book, including all the secondary characters, the surprises, and the relationships. I'm so excited that there is more Cas and Anna to come in book two!
"It's your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story..."