Book Review: Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
What can I say about the 13th book in a series? For those who’ve spent the past several years on Mars, what you need to know is that Dead Ever After is the final book in the best-selling Sookie Stackhouse series (The Southern Vampire Mysteries) by Charlaine Harris. Set in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, the series focuses on our heroine Sookie, a telepathic waitress whose family, friendships, and love interests form the core of these books, along with a whole host of supernatural creatures.
Over the course of 13 books, we’ve seen Sookie fall in and out of love, discover her own origins and powers, experience pain and betrayal… and act like a perfect Southern hostess while always displaying a sunny smile and a truly great tan. Sookie can “hear” other people’s thoughts with ease, and it’s enough to make a girl kind of crazy. She’s not the only oddball in town: Bon Temps and environs are also full of vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, fairies, witches, and demons, to name but a few of the “supes” hanging around.
Are you with me so far? Let’s face it: No newbie is going to start with Dead Ever After — or if they did, they wouldn’t last more than a page or two. Dead After Ever is strictly for fans, the ones who’ve stuck by the author and her girl Sookie through all the ups and downs and just NEED to know how it all works out.
Okay, so Dead Ever After — worth reading? At the risk of offending the faithful, here’s what I think:
This 13th Sookie novel is, over all, a bland and unengaging outing — but in that sense, it’s not unlike the last several books in the series. Listen, I loved these books when I first started reading them. Some were incredible (Book 4! Hello! Shower scene? *blush*), some were dramatic and suspenseful (ooh, that 7th book!), but past 8 or 9, it’s been a steady downhill run.
In #13, Sookie is embroiled in a murder mystery (so what else is new?), but mostly she’s trying to sort out her tumultuous love life. Frankly, the murder mystery isn’t terribly interesting or compelling. Sookie is accused of a murder, but of course we know that she’s innocent. The bad guys in this book are familiar figures from earlier in the series — but to be honest, they’re from so long ago that I didn’t have much of a reaction when they showed up, and the mystery itself isn’t particularly mysterious at all. Instead, it just feels like an excuse to pad this book and give it a plot.
Without the murder mystery, what’s left? Well, all of Sookie’s past lovers show up at one point or another — it’s like a parade of ex-boyfriends. None of them contribute a whole lot to the story, other than giving Sookie an excuse to ruminate on what she doesn’t want out of life and in a relationship. The ultimate question to be resolved at the end of this series is which of the many men in her life will be “the one” for Sookie — but if you read book 12, Charlaine Harris pretty much already spelled that out.
So for me, Dead Ever After reads like one long epilogue — and really, the relationship stuff could have been a final chapter in the previous book, wrapping it all up, and we’d have ended in the same place. Sookie figures out what — and whom — she wants, parts ways with the one she doesn’t end up with, and that’s pretty much it. I’m not naming names (far be it from me to include spoilers here), but anyone who’s been paying attention throughout the series will know who I mean.
That’s the plot. Meanwhile, the writing in this book includes all the elements that drive me bat-&*^% crazy throughout this series. And it feels like it’s just gotten worse and worse with each book. Really, how much do we need to know about Sookie’s beauty regimen, her clothing choices, her kitchen habits, and where she shops? Is this a novel or her appointment book?
A few examples (and maybe you’ll want to bang your head against the nearest wall too):
Her makeup was minimal. She was lovely as always, yet I couldn’t help but notice she’d let her eyebrows stray all over. Motherhood could sure wreak havoc on a woman’s grooming.
Oh, honey. Please. Real mothers of babies don’t even brush their hair, much less worry about their eyebrows.
I heated up a DiGiorno’s that night, since no one would deliver out on Hummingbird Road… I tried to fold the cardboard disk that had been under the pizza. Those things are hell to get into kitchen garbage bags, aren’t they?
And another day:
I showered and put on my makeup and my summer work uniform — Merlotte’s T-shirt, black shorts, and New Balance walking shoes — and got in the car to drive to work. I felt much better now that I was following my normal routine.
But best of all was the single page where Sookie SHAVES HER LEGS TWICE:
Back in my own bathroom later that afternoon, I took my own sweet time soaking in a hot tub. My favorite bath oil scented the air pleasantly as I shaved my legs.
And four paragraphs later (and yes, it’s the same afternoon):
I shaved my legs and curled my hair and got my cowboy boots out of the closet.
But wait, don’t you want to know about the rest of her outfit?
I’d had them for years [the cowboy boots], and since I wasn’t an actual cowgirl, they were still in really good shape. Black and white with red roses and green vines: I was proud every time I looked at them. I could go fundamental cowgirl with tight jeans and a sleeveless shirt, or I could go flirty dance hall with a full short skirt and an off-the-shoulder blouse. Hmmm.
Sorry, I’m not going to ruin the surprise and tell you what she ended up wearing. Guess you’ll have to read the book yourself to find out.
Some book series, like some of Sookie’s houseguests, don’t know when it’s time to say good-bye. Sadly, this series has petered out over the course of thirteen books instead of ending strongly and defiantly several books ago, as it should have. The story of Sookie and her many friends, neighbors, and lovers ran out of anything new to say a few volumes ago, and it’s been mostly filler (plus makeup, hair, and shopping lists!) ever since.
So this is the way Sookie’s story ends: Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Or a shoulder shrug.
I read Dead Ever After. It was a quick read, but nothing really happened worth remembering. As I said, I think I would have preferred a solid, happily-ever-after epilogue at the end of book #12. Of course, loyal Sookie readers will want to read this one too for the sake of completion. But as a friend said to me, “I feel like I could skip it if you’d just tell me who she ends up with.” Listen, you really want to know? Let’s talk…