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Book Cover Image: Back and Deader Than Ever by Lisi HarrisonTitle: Monster High #04: Back and Deader Than Ever
Author: Lisi Harrison
ISBN: 9780316099172
No. of Pages: 262
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Comedy

“The RADs are free and Draculaura (Lala) is flashing her fangs with pride. But when Daddy Drac pays her a surprise visit everything goes batty. Mr. D. thinks RADs should have their own school, but Lala isn’t ready to give up the rights they fought so hard for.

It’s father against daughter in a battle for Salem’s student body. Despite the many challenges, Lala is determined to save Merston High. But she might die twice while trying.”

Thoughts: Young fans of the Monster High series will rejoice at the release of its latest novel in the series. This fourth novel, Back and Deader Than Ever, focuses on everyone’s favorite vegetarian vampires, Draculara, known to her friends as Lala. With the unexpected and hulking presence of her father, she finds herself thrust into a very unwelcome spotlight as she searches for some way to garner his attention and affection. While she’s trying to do that, Frankie is looking to find her place in this new RAD-loving world, and Melody finds her true passion. And of course, they remain fabulous while doing so.

As an adult reader, I’ll admit to struggling with this latest novel. The entire plot seems contrived to allow Lala her own chance in the proverbial spotlight. While the messages remain empowering, the story itself seemed flat. As a character, Lala does not have the same spark/enthusiasm/unique voice that makes Frankie sparkle. As a role model, Lala is the weakest of the four main characters, as her inability to stand up for herself within her new relationship with Clawd Wolf will attest. Her lessons learned are less profound than Frankie’s and Melody’s continue to be. At the same time, Cleo’s queen bee attitude is more pronounced than it deserves, and Blue’s Australian idioms are extremely over the top. Even Melody’s story seems overwrought this time. It is as if the philosophy behind writing this latest novel was to take the portions that worked well in the previous books and multiply them tenfold. Given how satisfactorily the last novel ended, one cannot help but wonder whether Back and Deader Than Ever is a victim to the series’ success and any pressure to write more stories beyond the original story arc. Some stories are meant to conclude naturally, and one cannot help get the feeling that this is true of the Monster High series in general.

That is not to say that the target audience will not enjoy Back and Deader Than Ever. In the merchandising world of Monster High, Lala is one of the main characters and seems to get a larger marketing push than even Frankie does, which makes the fact that she is the fourth character to be able to tell her story is all the more surprising. Fans will love the closer look at Lala’s vegetarian lifestyle, her comfortable life living with her uncle as well as her intimidating father. It is unfortunate that Lala is not as memorable or as strong a character as Frankie, Cleo or Melody.

Acknowledgments: My daughter’s. All my daughter’s.

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