Maynard's book, using elements from the 1990 Pamela Smart murder case, is told in the form of a highly engrossing collection of first-person narrative...moreMaynard's book, using elements from the 1990 Pamela Smart murder case, is told in the form of a highly engrossing collection of first-person narratives from various characters: the accused (aspiring newscaster Suzanne Stone Maretto), her parents, the victim's parents and sister, the teenage accomplices, and a few accounts from various onlookers and acquaintances.
The psychological portraits drawn are engaging and powerful; compared to Suzanne's self-absorbed tunnel-vision of calculated retconning, the accounts given by the wrong-side-of-the-tracks teenagers she befriends and manipulates to kill her husband Larry are almost heart-breaking in their raw honesty, bewilderment, and eventual sense of betrayal. Two in particular--Jimmy and Lydia--clearly have Suzanne up on a pedestal from the beginning of their acquaintance with her; to them, she's a flash of light and colour in their otherwise bleak lives, at least until Suzanne uses then discards them.
There's a powerful sense of class conflict throughout the book; the well-off WASP background of Suzanne clashes strongly not just with that of Larry's honest and likable working-class parents but also with the abuse, neglect and poverty that her teenage acquaintances and their parents face--making Suzanne's manipulation of them all that much more appalling. "The game is rigged. Doesn't everybody know that yet?" Jimmy's mother wearily asks.
I was impressed at how nearly everyone narrating is sympathethic to some extent, not an easy thing for a writer to accomplish with this kind of story. People are clearly portrayed as often being the result of not just their own choices in life, but also of those made by others around them, of the circumstances of their birth, of what has happened to them in the world.
We can even feel a very slight sympathy for Suzanne herself, so lost in her style-over-substance lifestyle and desire for the outwardly "perfect" life (seemingly encouraged by her well-meaning but appearance-emphasizing, overly indulgent parents) that she honestly seems to believe her own version of events. Not surprising when considering that this is a woman who equates looking good for an audience with actual virtue, but chilling and sad nonetheless. We can truly believe that this is a woman who would arrange to have her spouse killed not just for the insurance money, but to avoid the "messiness" of a divorce. To her, appearances are everything.
A gripping and cautionary tale of pursuing the modern American dream of fame/success for all the wrong reasons and in all the wrong ways, To Die For offers a supercharged reminder of the dangers of prizing surface over depth: truly, all that glitters is not gold.(less)
This book introduced me to Greek mythology and I've yet to find its equal in the genre. I first read this in grade school, having found the hardcover...moreThis book introduced me to Greek mythology and I've yet to find its equal in the genre. I first read this in grade school, having found the hardcover version in my school library. I checked it out several times--though it's an oversize book and was therefore as a hardcover a bit heavy to drag home and back, I always felt it was worth it.
The artwork is incredibly detailed and beautiful, and the written portrayal of the various gods and goddesses, heroes and monsters is highly sympathetic toward and attentive to the strengths and failings of human beings, of both virtue and weakness (strengths and failings which the Greek deities were believed to share themselves, in no small measure).
From the drawing of the "family tree" of deities--the Titans led by Cronus proceeding to Zeus and his siblings, to their children--to the map of ancient Greece with notable mythical events and sites marked (where Zeus flung Hephaestus, where Aphrodite rose from the sea) to the drawings of constellations as various heroes and creatures were placed in the sky by the gods, there is a powerful and humbling sense throughout of what ancient Greek civilization has provided us. Even now as an adult when I read it, I am impressed by all the words and terms that Greek folklore has bequeathed to the English language and no doubt its sister tongues ("panic" from the satyr demigod Pan, "echo" from the nymph of the same name cursed to forever repeat the words of others, "narcissism" from the youth Narcissus who pined away from desiring his own reflection in the water, etc).
Highly recommended not only for children, but for anyone who loves well-drawn and well-narrated folklore.(less)