Review: Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Kate Alender

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Title: Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
Author: Kate Alender
Genre: young adult, contemporary, mystery
Series: N/A
Pages: 307 (ARC)
Published: September 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2/5

Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger . . .

Acclaimed author Katie Alender brings heart-stopping suspense to this story of revenge, betrayal, intrigue — and one killer queen.

One of the things I find most disappointing in novels is wasted potential. Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer boasts one of the weirdest and yet coolest-sounding plots I've heard of, but over the course of nearly 300 pages, utterly fails to make use of that originality and creativity. I wouldn't go so far to say that this is the absolute worst young adult novel I've read in 2013, but it certainly is one of the most disappointing. There is a lot of potential, but the author found herself out of her depth and couldn't pull it off to satisfaction.

The problem with the novel lies not with the writing, for it's pretty short, to-the-point-no frills-kinda-stuff and very readable (WITH A FEW EXCEPTIONS)*, but mainly with the characters and the misuse of great ideas. There's no way around it: almost the entire cast is awful, one-dimensional, or evil. It is one thing to write an unlikeable character or an antihero, but it is another to write characters so stereotypical and awful that you alienate your readers from investing in your story.

*the real exception I want to stress is this: "His eyes, which already looked like the sun setting on a pool of liquid gold, got even sparklier."
from 27% into the ARC. That is just... Wow. no. "Sparklier"? Really?

Main character Colette is selfish, self-centered, and self-conscious. I wanted to care about her, but when she is impressed with French people for being French, I just gave up. The author tries to flesh her out with Home Problems & Money Issues, but she's as stock as her two best friends, Pilar and Hannah. (Though I do appreciate that at least two of the main/main-ish cast are non-white.) When Alender loses focus, the book can read like Mean Girls in Paris. Which, fine, I would totally read. But that is absolutely NOT what I signed up for when I opened Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer.

As far as Marie herself goes, she is entirely wasted. Her scenes of murder are surprisingly and weirdly cut-and-dried in tone and voice. It's all relayed in an almost bored way. "His/her head separated from his/her body." The way she is written, the ghost has no teeth, no bite to her hauntings. Sure, people die but there's no suspense about any of it. There's nothing new done with the fact that a 18th century French Queen has come back from the dead to...- wreak vengeance on those who have wronged her? I'm sorry but that is such a rote supernatural plot I half expected the Brothers Winchester to show up at Le Petit Trianon.

Insofar as this is being called a "mystery", I would advise that it is not a typical one. It isn't about unraveling who the killer is -- hello, it's there in the title -- but about why and why now. And when all is said and done, I don't really think there is an answer for why it took 200 years for Marie to decide to get back at her betrayers. It's not addressed and not even mentioned, but I kept wondering -- why wait until the people who had hurt her were dead? Doesn't it make more sense to strike when the perpetrators themselves were alive?

If that were all, I could still see myself rating this around a 3/5. But then the final confrontation came...and went, with barely a whisper. SPOILERS! The great-great-great?-grandchild of your best friend saying she is "really sorry" is an anticlimactic way to end a novel. It was rushed, and far too easy. No burning of bones, no great altercation... just some yelling, some apologizing... and that's it. Problem solved for Colette. To say that was a let-down of an ending doesn't even begin to cover the disappointment. It's not enough to promise awesome things -- you have to actual fulfill those things. I was promised a thrill ride of a serial killing ghost story. I got a Mean Girls with a Love Triangle while people-get-murdered-occasionally story. Which one would you rather read?


  1. Like, I get that the book was supposed to be campy. But yeah, it was almost painful campy. AND THEREFORE IT WASN'T CAMPY

  2. o.O

    Suns setting in pools of liquid gold are bad enough. Never mind them being even SPARKLIER.

    That line just kills it for me.

  3. Hmmm, I didn't mind this one, but mostly because I'd heard how terrible it was. I actually didn't mind the characters, because I thought they got less stereotypical. The love interest, for example, wasn't standard issue. The sparklier line I clearly skimmed past. And the mystery I ignored, because what the heck was that?


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