Yes. You read that right. They want to kill.
Kit and Fancy would both be diagnosable with Conduct Disorder. According to the DSM IV, Conduct Disorder is a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated. Both girls meet the requirement of at least 3 manifestations of this pattern, including using a weapon to cause serious physical harm to others, physical cruelty to animals, and physical cruelty to other people.
In addition, they show some lack of empathy for their fellow humans, which suggests a pretty psychopathic bent to their developing personalities. Check out this interaction with their mother (Madda), who is trying to get them to branch out a bit:
"I love that you and Fancy are so close. But it's okay to be close to other people, too."True psychopathy is relatively unusual in general, and even more so in adolescent girls. Further, contrary to popular belief, most people with this condition never actually commit crimes (though they tend to do enormous psychological damage to others). There are a very, very few cases of adolescent girls who commit serial murder (like, in the last century, maybe three, if that?). And all of those girls had horrible histories of severe abuse and/or deprivation.
"There are no other people! Are there, Fancy?"
Fancy, who had been watching in stunned silence, said, "People?" as though she'd never heard of such a thing. "They're like dolls. Plastic and shiny and fake."
"Like if you took out their batteries," Kit said, "they'd fall over."
"Exactly! Who cares about people? It's not like they matter."
It was Madda's turn to stare at her daughers in disbelief. "Everybody matters. People aren't toys. You can't just ..." She trailed off, and looked away from whatever she saw in Kit and Fancy's eyes.
Kit and Fancy don't. They are the rarest of the rare. And they don't really fit neatly into the category of psychopathy, either. In fact, girls like these probably don't exist in nature. They are not based on a true story or a case study.
Now: ask me if I care.
Nope. Not at all.
Slice of Cherry is not for the faint of heart. The first few pages had me cheering, then laughing, then cringing. That's how I felt for most of the book. Now, I absolutely love books like this, but if you're sensitive, turn the pages with some caution.
So why did I loves it so?
First, the writing. Dia Reeves just has a knack for clever turns of phrase, lush description that enhances but doesn't bog down, and punchy lines that made me laugh out loud. It's just confident and beautiful and visceral.
Next, the world-building. Portero is a weird place. I read some reviews that complained that its magic is never fully explained. Well. I didn't care. It's just there, and it's three-dimensional, with its own history, culture, myths, and rules. What I loved was that the author didn't spend too much time explaining the world to the reader; she just got on with it, saying just as much as she needed to keep us in the loop. Because it was all supported by her gift for concise yet elaborate description, the whole thing worked for me in a huge way.
Finally, the bold characterization. The girls change and develop throughout the book, but they never lose their edge. They don't get diluted, which would be a temptation for any writer who'd created such dangerous characters and set them loose. But because Dia Reeves doesn't soften them too much, the tension is constant. For example, when the girls meet up with two handsome brothers whose father was the final victim of the Bonesaw Killer, the reader spends the rest of the story wondering if both young men are going to make it to the final page (I won't tell whether they do or not ...). And yet, both girls are likable, vulnerable and sympathetic. They have a complex, somewhat enmeshed relationship, yet they are distinct individuals with their own inner conflicts and needs.
I spent this book wide-eyed, shaking my head, chuckling, and possibly squealing a bit during a few scenes. I closed it with a deep admiration for Dia Reeves's skill. If you want to learn a thing or two about truly unapologetic, gleeful storytelling, use this book as your manual. Now, excuse me. I'm off to purchase Bleeding Violet.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? What do you think about books that incorporate magical happenings into a very down-to-earth real world? What helps you suspend your disbelief?