Dead is the New Black, by Marlene Perez

Marlene Perez’s Dead is the New Black is a supernatural mystery/romance aimed at reluctant teen readers*. Her protagonist is Daisy Giordano, the youngest daughter of one of the strangest families in the small town of Nightshade, CA—Daisy’s mother is psychic, her oldest sister can read minds, and her middle sister is telekinetic. Daisy is perfectly normal, but she’s not about to let her lack of superpowers stop her from investigating a series of attacks on local high school girls. Her search may be risky, but it has some unexpected benefits, too: loads of one-on-one time with Ryan Mendez, Daisy's supernova-hot best friend, and an unexpected overture of friendship from the school’s beautiful cheerleading captain... who has inexplicably abandoned her former style for ankhs, all-black ensembles, and a coffin on wheels.

Sadly, the supernatural aspects of Perez’s plot are confusing, and her pacing is downright bizarre. The story’s incoherent mythology is irritating (for example, a character dies, and then comes back to life at the end of the novel—offstage, and without explanation), but I had much bigger problems with lines like this one, which “explains” Daisy’s decision not to share an important clue with Ryan:

“With all the excitement, I hadn’t had any time alone with Ryan to tell him what I had found out about the identity of the dead girl, and the weekend ended without a call from him.”
We’re talking about Daisy witnessing an undead cheerleader doing back flips during a Friday-morning pep rally, so putting off this fact-sharing mission until Monday afternoon seems, uh, insane. (Also, why couldn’t she call him? What is this, 1952?) This book isn’t meant to be taken seriously—but parody is so much funnier when it actually makes sense.

To do it justice, much of Dead is the New Black is tremendous fun. Daisy is a likeable heroine, the romantic aspects of the story are sure to appeal to young readers, and the plot mashes together every Goth cliché in the teen-lit canon: outcasts, cheerleaders, zombies, romance, superpowers, the prom, etc. It doesn’t bear up to close inspection, but if you turn off the critical thinking part of your brain, Perez's novel is a quick, quirky, quip-filled good time.

*An under-served market.
Posted by: Julianka


30 Sep, 2008 05:52 PM @ version 0

I picked it up at the bookstore (due, I must confess, to its awesome cover art), and I'm enjoying it. It's not great, but I've read worse!

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