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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Remember Barbie?

“I’m taking my childhood back,” says  P.  J., the kill-crazy antagonist of Wyborn Senna’s Bury Me With Barbie. “I get to redo it my way, and nobody can stop me.”

            I spent a fortune reacquiring the EC horror comics of my youth that my parents made me burn when I became a teenager because they thought I was too old to still read comic books, so I can easily identify with the doll collectors depicted in this fact-filled novel about all things Barbie. My girlfriend is also an avid doll collector, and I see the same madness in her eyes when she finds a new American Girl or Kids ’n’ Katz for sale as the compulsive madness in the eyes of many of the characters in Bury Me With Barbie. I imagine I get the same kind of madness in my own eyes when I find a novel by a favorite author that I haven’t yet read, or a new book on the history of comics.

            I bought Bury Me With Barbie because I am a completist. I try to acquire every book published in my favorite genres, just as I have reacquired every issue of the original EC horror titles. I bought Senna’s new novel because it was about a demented serial killer with compulsions, the kind of tale I sometimes write myself. I didn’t expect I’d actually enjoy reading the story.

            Bury Me With Barbie isn’t great literature. Many of the characters are the same kind of stereotypical two-dimensional caricatures found in contemporary romances or 1930s pulp fiction. But B. J. is nasty enough and Caresse is nice enough to make readers care what happens to them, and the plot moves along from murder to murder like clockwork. Wyborn Senna ties up loose ends nicely, and dialogue is natural-sounding. I couldn’t stop reading because I wanted to know what would happen next. That’s my definition of a good read.

            The bonus is an abundance of factual Barbie history (everything you ever wanted to know about Barbie but never bothered to ask), plus valid cautions about the dangers of putting so much personal information online or in the media that you become easy prey for predators. P. J. selects victims from members of the Best Barbie Bulletin Board or collectors interviewed for the monthly Barbie International magazine. B. J. is actually the publisher of Barbie International, and Caresse is the freelancer who interviews collectors and photographs collections for B. J.’s magazine. The ending came a little too abruptly and left enough questions in my mind to expect a sequel. What about Darby, P. J.’s half-brother? What will happen to P. J.? And will Caresse ever find her true love? Inquiring minds want to know.



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